Collected Works: Art
Inasmuch As It Is Always Already Taking Place
by Gary Hill
Within a five-foot recess lies a fragmented human body, its parts scattered across sixteen video monitors of various sizes. The screens are connected by twisting, nerve-like wires, but there seems to be no logical ordering: a foot, an ear, and a groin lie side by side. The disconnected ends of the wiring disappear from sight into the back wall of the niche, implying that the core of the human is neither visible nor fleshy, but something rather less tangible.
The alcove in which the monitors lie is positioned below eye level, drawing our gaze downwards and prompting comparisons to a morgue, or perhaps a digital grave. If death is depicted here, though, it is through the remove of the body’s scrambled arrangement and its physical absence, stored as if within a scrapheap and recounted as if via television footage. The artist, Gary Hill, has called the collection of monitors ‘a kind of debris’, inviting us to consider these screens as the tombstones of detached, late-twentieth-century modernity.
Hill is interested, in his own words, in ‘very sculptural notions coming out of sound, the body, utterance and speaking’. For the artist, the production of language cannot be separated from the guttural and the corporeal, the vibration of the voice box and the secretion of saliva. Barely audible whispers can sporadically be heard through speakers: ‘I couldn’t say it any other way.’ One screen shows Hill’s thumb on the page of a book; another shows illegible writing.
The body parts are Hill’s own, but his features are distorted beyond recognition. Rather than a reproduction of the human whole, we are offered its constituent elements in isolation. The writing and speech both act to draw us closer to individual screens, squinting and straining, at the expense of experiencing the work in its entirety. With Inasmuch As It Is Always Already Taking Place, the self is deconstructed, the artist’s physical form torn limb from limb.
Words by John Wadsworth
Question of the day
The Veiling by Bill Viola. I saw this in high school, and the physicalisation of a cross-fade between two moving images has always stuck with me. (→)
– Claire Carré, film director and editor (Embers) (via The Brief →)
Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii by Nam June Paik. A neon giant composed of ever-flickering screens, foreshadowing the impact of the information age. (→)
– Katherine Fieldgate, Silent Frame Sub-Editor (via Patreon →)