Tag Archives: gary hill


Primary by Gary Hill

Made in 1978.


“Primary is a performance video in which the artist represents and breaks down the movements of the articulation of the spoken language by associating a colour with each shape adopted by the mouth when pronouncing the monosyllabic word that corresponds to it. The three words on the tape are: ‘Blue, red, green’.

Primary was one of the first tapes to use spoken text as an element for structuring images and the work itself. The Equal Time (1979) and Black / White / Text (1980) tapes, amongst others, were also to use spoken text, but in a more complex manner.

Primary does not really analyse pronunciation; it places speech back into its context and language into a physical process. Gary Hill represents the physical properties of action and sound in the same manner in Full Circle and Soundings, and electrical energy in Electronic Linguistic.

The process in Primary is taken up again in the Primary Speaking installation and the resulting tape. The time taken to pronounce each syllable determines the staccato rate at which images unfold; the subjects of these correspond to the words pronounced and the abstract ideas expressed. The test is an existential search, querying, in turn, the idiomatic expressions of the language, the individual choices, identity, questioning and elements of response. These elements are put on an equivalent basis with the syllables according to their function in the construction of a future era.” – Thérèse Beyler

via Maternal Hopi


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Mouth Piece

A video by Gary Hill. Made in 1978.

“Using a fictional interactivity of the artist’s body on the image, Mouthpiece is a humorous simulation of a performance video. A black and white recording is superimposed on a series of pictures. The simulation of action is produced by this transparency and the effect of reality given by the recording in real time.

The fiction is constructed along the lines of turning fantasy into derision. A series of identical mouths – red, pulpous lips — files past in a column. A recording of the artist’s mouth appears in the background, kissing the images. But the rate at which the series files past accelerates, in defiance of the kiss, which can no longer land on the pictures. The artist then reacts by pursing his lips and blowing out a “brbrbr” sound, which seems to make the pictures file past even faster, mixing them up, as if the sound waves had taken over the very substance of the image. Confronted with this playful lunacy, the artist sticks out his tongue in a humorous onomatopoeia of disgust. Then, these sequences file past a second time. These three phases give a real time simulation of the interaction between two levels of the image and between sound and image.

The mouth was a recurring subject, in various approaches to communication, in videos in the 70’s: In Primary (1978), Gary Hill breaks down the mouth’s movements during the articulation of the words “blue, red, green”. In Lip Sync (1969), Bruce Nauman plays with the synchronisation of the images of lips and the voice off by the repetition of the title. In Open Book (1974), Vito Acconci invites spectators to enter his wide-open mouth.” – Thérèse Beyler

via Maternal Hopi


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