About this artwork
Gary Hill’s video installations investigate the complex relationship between language and images. In the 1970s, Hill experimented first with sound installations and then a video recorder. In the 1980s, alongside other video artists such as Bruce Nauman and Bill Viola, he began to focus on the technical capabilities of the medium rather than its aesthetic qualities, seeking to create a meditative space where he could explore issues of authorship, consciousness, and semiotics.
Like other works by Hill, Inasmuch As It Is Always Already Taking Place is an amalgam of visual, structural, and sound components. The piece consists of sixteen staggered, uncased monitors that display life-size male body parts, pages of a book being thumbed, and a page with text that is too small to read. Varying in size from one-quarter inch (an eyepiece of a video camera) to twenty-three inches (the size of a ribcage), the screens, with their exposed, nervelike wires, are recessed into a five-foot niche that is set below eye level. The fragmented figure’s subtle movements are juxtaposed with nearly inaudible speech, primitive sounds of groaning, smacking noises, finger tapping, rippling water, and gun shots. Moving in close enough to decipher the sound, the viewer hears intermittent statements including “It was only an idea” and “I couldn’t say it any other way,” as if the body has its own language.
Rooted in Poststructuralist theory, including the work of French philosopher Maurice Blanchot and others, Hill’s practice merges the visual and literary arts. As he has said, “My preoccupation with language began with very sculptural notions coming out of sound, the body, utterance and speaking.” In Inasmuch As It Is Always Already Taking Place, Hill adds a layer of language and deconstructs his own body, focusing on the scene as a whole rather than on each individual image. The dismembered body is decidedly self-referential, appearing as a random pile, or, as Hill put it, “a kind of debris.” Abstracted, it exudes a sensation of presence and absence, having become barely recognizable despite its close-up detail. On one level, Hill seems to be challenging a notion of masculine authority by revealing and fracturing an image of male nudity.
Unmoored from their usual spatial and temporal relationship to one another, these body parts are treated almost as a still life or landscape painting. Indeed, the work can be seen as a vanitas image; the visceral sounds and the barely moving, harshly lit figure are the only signs of life and thus serve as reminders of its transience—and perhaps also of the impermanent nature of electronic media. This disturbing and complex video installation suggests many dichotomies: being and knowing, self and other, private and public, reality and imagination.
- Currently Off View
- Contemporary Art
- Gary Hill
- Inasmuch As It Is Always Already Taking Place
- United States (Artist's nationality)
- Sixteen-channel black-and-white video, sound (sixteen cathode ray tubes); 5-to-30 second loops, 16 x 54 x 66 in. (40.6 x 137.2 x 167.6 cm), niche recessed into wall; edition 1 of 2, plus 1 artist's proof
- Gift of Lannan Foundation