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Introduction
1993
November/December

In the Light of the Other, installations by American Video artist Gary Hill, Museum of Modern Art, Oxford

Gary Hill, like his US contemporaries Bill Viola and Tony Oursler, adopted video in the 70s and worked with the medium throughout the 80s, establishing his reputation within the field. By the early 90s, all three had major shows in the UK introducing their most recent works. Originally trained in sculpture, Hill is interested in linguistics and the unique possibilities that video offers to create new languages through combining the visual with the aural and the textual. Hill uses video to create installations that have auratic qualities and which draw the viewer into environments in which their perceptions of reality are challenged. In the Light of the Other presented Hill's investigations into meaning and being and included the multiple monitor based installations Inasmuch as it is Already Taking Place and Between 1 & 0.The work which created the greatest impact was Tall Ships, first shown at DOCUMENTA 9 in 1992 . [DOCUMENTA is arguably the most influential of all international festivals and in 1992 established video as a major force within the visual arts]. Tall Ships is an entirely silent, sixteen channel video installation that comes into being through the presence of a viewer; it is set up so that whoever walks into the darkened gallery triggers the projected figures hovering around the edge of the space to move towards them. These black and white, human scale representations of ordinary people then glide forward only to recede back into the darkness at the point of meeting. Their illusionary physicality gives the viewer, who is also aware of the presence of other 'real' visitors in the space, a unique experience of this uncanny installation. In a year when interactivity was the buzz word, this was an interactive experience that had the potential to move and affect rather than present a set of arbitrary choices which could be passed by. Tall Ships is therefore notable not only for being a technologically ambitious work, but one whose experiential qualities have meant that it has continued to be exhibited throughout the 1990s and into the 21st century.

Marie-Anne McQuay

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Still from Gary Hill's installation, Tall Ships (black-and-white, silent) - 16 modified 4-inch b&w monitors with projection lenses, 16 laserdisc players, 16 laserdiscs, computer with 16 RS-232 control ports and pressure-sensitive switching runners, black or dark gray carpet, and controlling software Dimensions of corridor: 10 h. x 10 w. x 90 l. ft. (3 x 3 x 27 meters) Edition of two and one artistÂ’s proof

Photo: Dirk Bleicker, courtesy Donald Young Gallery, Chicago
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