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Indepth Arts News:

"Gary Hill: Selected Works 1976 - 2001"
2001-11-10 until 2002-03-10
Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg
Wolfsburg, , DE

Video art is still a comparatively young discipline. In the 1960s, the medium was pioneered by such artists as Dan Graham, Nam June Paik, Wolf Vostell and Bruce Nauman. Works by Paik and Nauman have already featured in major exhibitions at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg. Gary Hill, whose piece Searchlight is already in the permanent collection of the Kunstmuseum, is a member of the second generation of video artists.

An American, living in Seattle, he began his artistic career as a sculptor. The Kunstmuseum now presents a representative survey of Hillís video pieces. The early videos of the 1970s, which concentrate on formal experimentation, are included alongside technically sophisticated video installations, most of which date from the last ten years. In these, Hill deliberately treats technological apparatus as sculptural form. Videos run on television sets that have been liberated from their cabinets. The naked cathode-ray tubes look like eyes; the screen becomes the retina, on which a film is playing. Hillís interest centres on issues of the perception of image and language. He explores the connections between body reality and the articulation or reception of visual and linguistic signals. Hill acknowledges the epistemological models devised by the French structuralists, most notably Foucault, Blanchot, Barthes and Derrida, as a major influence on his work. As specialists in the humanities, as linguists and as philosophers, these thinkers set out to organize things in ways that were no longer defined by consciousness or subjectivity but by systems involving rules and codes. Gary Hillís video works often manifest a linguistic chaos worthy of Babel. Different texts are recited simultaneously. A story is presented in written and spoken form, in such a way that the two levels differ both in content and in timing. Text-image combinations include permutations of the spoken word with letters and with written key phrases. Optical alienation effects are an important feature of Hillís early Ďmono-channelí pieces. Realities are broken down almost entirely into abstract structures, with an effect strongly reminiscent of the visual language of early psychedelic music videos. Many of the video installations are positively harsh and physically effortful Ė as with Reflex Chamber and Wall Piece, in both of which the projected image is punctuated by staccato strobe flashes. Here, Hill is deliberately exploring the outer limits of perception and endurance.

Alongside these, there are works of impressively deep, almost meditative calm. Examples include Viewer and Searchlight, from our collection, or the piece Tall Ships, which was acclaimed at the documenta 9 exhibition. In this, wraithlike human figures emerge from darkness and seem to make contact with the viewer before vanishing into the void. Many of Hillís works unmistakably reveal his interest in performance art. Since 1971, in association with a variety of other performers, he has created almost thirty performance pieces; the most recent is Remembering Paralinguay, a joint work with his partner Paula Wallenberg-Olsson. Both in video and in performance, Hill treats language literally as a material. This can be seen, for instance, in his frequent use of palindromes: words or phrases that can be read either backwards or forwards. He has learned to speak even complex sentences backwards without apparent effort.

The Wolfsburg exhibition is the first major European retrospective of the work of Gary Hill, a recipient of the Kurt Schwitters Prize. It will contain thirteen complex video installations and a wide selection of Hillís mono-channel pieces of the 1970s and 1980s.

Gary Hill
Remarks on Color, 1994
Single channel video installation

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