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Sculpture of the screen




David Hall

Tate Britain, London
July 13 and 20
Free
Ticket office: 020 7887 8888


How have artist film/ video makers looked at the notion of the screen as a sculptural intervention? How have experimental works dealt with the site specificity of the auditorium, the relationship between the screen and the viewer, the film/video and the screen?

Light Reading presents two programmes in and around the theme of the film/video object in space. The first, on July 13th, will present the different ways that film/video artists have approached the screen as a sculptural site. The second, on July 20th, will turn the auditorium over to the work of the renowned sculptor and film/video artist David Hall.


13 July

This Surface
David Hall and Tony Sinden, colour, 16mm, 10 min sound, 1973
This surface and Edge [also being screened in this programme] are two of 5 Films (View, This surface, Actor, Edge, Between) made by David Hall and Tony Sinden in 1973. Individually both artists have had a profound impact upon the development of artist film and video. Sinden’s early interest in the possibilities of working with a projected image in a three dimensional space - led him to become one of the first artists in the UK to use multiple or expanded cinema, using ten or more projectors, often with loop cycles of images. These works investigated the primal conditions of cinema itself.

David Hall’s contribution to British Video Art is unparalleled. Not only are many of his video pieces classics – TV fighter (Cam Era plane 1977) and the BBC commission This is a television Receiver (1976) – but he has also made important and often brilliant contributions to experimental film, installation and sculpture. Tracing his work is to simultaneously survey the history of British video art before its fragmentation in the mid 1980’s.

It is unsurprising then that the 5 film series made in collaboration are of such importance. The films themselves explore the relationship between screen image and spatio-temporal illusion – the materiality of the screen in relationship to the image as representation. Ideas that each artist would continue to explore after collaboration. But further to these concerns, these films mark a vital phase in the process of both artists as they sought to create a body of work with intellectual rigour without sacrificing the imaginative and aesthetic qualities of art. “These films represent an important phase in our work in which we explored an area of film which would possibly locate a ‘broader aesthetic’ by relating avant-garde issues to the generally accepted framework of conventional film-making, and in some cases, specifically to narrative cinema” DH/TS

Water Work
Tony Hill, 11min, colour, sound, 16mm (projected on beta), 1987
A sculptural film which explores the space on and just below the surface of a swimming pool. The film plays with orientation, weightlessness and particularly the surface itself, that peculiar boundary between worlds that is both window and mirror, both visible and invisible.

Telly
Nicky Hamlyn, colour, video, 4min, 1995
Almost all my work is set in interior, usually personal, spaces. My films explore the paradoxical nature of light, the camera – eye, surface, structure, time and space. Light – ephemeral, ineffable- illuminates and models, but it also destabilises and can even obliterate solid objects. - NH

Mirror Film
David Dye, silent, colour, 16mm, 5min, 1971
Perhaps the most obvious feature of Dye’s work – and the one that he shares with that of many other artist/film–makers is his refusal to purvey illusion. “I feel something like nausea for the rich diet of images that are served up for our constant consumption,’ he has written. ‘We are living in a camera / image saturated age. What has drawn me to film is not the image and all its expressive possibilities; my concern is with the filmic situation as a whole stripped down to its basic components, with its imagistic illusion torn away. From being the unseen producers of the image, camera, projector and screen themselves, become the object of the image – cameraman faces mirror, a projector projects an image of itself onto itself, images of a screen are projected onto that screen. A negation, a subversion of the artist’s traditional role is involved; images are deprived of autonomy, forced back on the means that produce them. The spectator is frustrated of his expectations, encouraged to see the work not as a framed slice of ‘reality’, but as a device for posing certain questions about communication through images.” – Art and Artists Dec 1972.

Lens Tissue
Mike Dunford, silent, colour, 5min, 1973
“Continuing with the project to analyse aspects of the mechanics of cinema, this film begins with the lens structure and the properties of sharpness. An ironic scenario explains the necessity of the lens tissue” MD

Penumbra
Nicky Hamlyn, b/w, 16mm, 9 mins, silent, 2003
Shot in a bathroom, the film is a continuous, unbroken image that fluctuates and alters as the camera encounters irregularities and interruptions in the grid system of tiles. The Composition of the image is dictated by the squareness of the tiles in conjunction with the rectangular dimensions of the film-frame, which is based on a 'four by three' ratio of the 'golden section'. NH

Zoom lapse
John Du Cane, colour, 20min, silent, 16mm
“I was interested in film as a sculptural medium, and as a way to have the viewer be more aware of his viewing process, of his consciousness. My films were meditative at a time when that phrase wasn’t a popular term to use, but most of the films were designed to reflect the viewer back on to themselves. I also usually wanted my films to be very physical experiences; I wanted to make the experience work on really all of the main levels of energy; the physical, the intellectual and the aspects of awareness that we associate with consciousness. In Zoom Lapse I was also interested in working with the way we perceive time and space as it can be manipulated through the camera”. -John Du Cane, interview with Mark Webber, 2002

Edge
David Hall and Tony Sinden, colour, 10min, 16mm, sound, 1973
A parody of the 'western ' in which Hall and Sinden dressed as cowboys, walk towards the camera and each other for a perpetually deferred gunfight.

Intermission: 20 minutes

Where a straight line meets a curve
Mirza /Butler, 2 screen 16mm projection, colour, 2003, 32min, sound by David Cunningham
“…I found myself exploring a metaphoric exterior to come across a window of interior understanding. The empty space was constantly changing since there was no one there to stop it from doing so, the time frame was measured through the changing shadows cast from the sun, thus indicating a time of day. The light and colour formed relationships between and across the screen, continuously, redefining the perception of the space I stood in and the space I was viewing on screen. A dialectical excursion with the mental image, the dimension of physical space, and the illusionist space of cinema was unfolding. ‘Where a Straight Line meets a Curve’ is like a mapping action onto our interior psychology. A Topo-analysis, as explained by Gaston Bachalard (in his 1958 book The Poetics of Space) is the psychological and systematic study of the sites of our lives”. - Louis Benassi. Filmmaker and curator Edinburgh International Film Festival.

Descent
5 screen video, Ron Haselden working with John Berger, 12 min
Texts and images progress through a short movie sequence across a number of adjoining screens. The texts and images attempt to integrate and progress in tandem.

Visual moments taken by a camera in a light aircraft as it descends from above the clouds at twilight to its landing in the dark at a small airport in Northern France. Images start in the light airy domain above the clouds to gradually drop into the thick cloud below. The clouds turn colour through greys and blues to dark indigo and blacks. Eventually occasional pinpricks of light start to indicate the approach of land below. A brief glimpse of tarmac floodlighting confirms the arrival.

Descent is a collaborative work of video and texts. The video is of a routine flight from Guernsey to Brittany, the texts are excerpts from newspapers from some six months following 9/11. Just as the images represent only part of the flight, precisely sectioned off from the rise and fall of the flight's space and time, the texts represent only elements of their journalistic origin, severely edited from the more contemporaneous flow of the daily press. At times, the images and texts offer alarmingly close correlation of depiction and description, at others they allow extreme divergence of illusion and allusion. Together, the images and texts construct a kind of mini-narrative with a nominal protagonist, a world of account and reflection at once both mundane and ominous.
John Berger works mainly in France and emails texts on a regular basis to recipients elsewhere. Ron Haselden also often works in France and constructs video and sculpture often in collaboration with others of many disciplines.


20 July

Slide Documentation:
Four Sculptures from early-mid sixties:
a. Isomet 1964
b. Mascarada 1964
c. Duo 1965
d. Izzard 1965
Four floor works from 1966 on:
f. Four II 1966
g. Nine 1967 (in Tate collection)
h. Six Sided Piece 1967
i. Displacement 1970

'In 1970 I made (un-made) my last sculpture, certainly of that kind, at the ICA exhibition British Sculpture out of the Sixties. At the same time there was a show in Japan, the other side of the world, where I had sent one of my earlier floor sculptures. At the ICA I delineated the precise shape of the piece sent to Japan on the gallery floor. It was a painted floor, and having delineated the shape I sanded away the paint. So I didn't put anything into the gallery, I took something out, I took the paint out. People came to see the show and were standing in the area looking at other sculptures, not noticing it often, which in a way I enjoyed - it gave it a completely different dimension...' DH, interview by Stephen Partridge, Transcript magazine vol 3, issue 3, 1999.

Slide Documentation:
Three photo-pieces also dating from 1966:
j. Trees Photo-piece 1966
k. Road Photo-piece 1966
n. Vertical Photo-piece 1968

'The sculpture I made in the '60s was photographed, though two-dimensional pictures said little about my work. If people didn't see the sculpture they more or less believed they had if they saw the photographs. They made judgements about it, they had grown used to that from looking at images. I decided these were probably more important than the sculpture so I began making photographic works.. Then I decided the illusion was even more convincing when there was movement and sound - marking the passage of time, and I started to make films. But I used illusion only as a means to see itself. If I had denied it altogether it would be convenient and 'true' to the mechanics and process of film, but illusion would still be there because people wanted it to be. They expected that from looking at films. I was interested in their expectations, but didn't necessarily want to give them what they might expect.. Soon I became interested in television. TV as a medium, and its offspring video, was a different proposition. Viewing TV was not a special event with a captive audience like film, but it reached everyone... with TV people mostly got what they expected... and my interests in film transposed to TV, but the context was very different and the work had to respond to that...' DH, from notes for Structures, Paraphernalia and Television, Signs of the Times cat., Museum of Modern Art, Oxford 1990.

Monitors:
TV Interruptions (7 TV Pieces)
David Hall, 1971, 22min
In 1971 David Hall made ten TV Interruptions for Scottish Television which were broadcast, unannounced, in August and September of that year (a selection of seven of the ten was later issued as 7 TV Pieces). These, his first works for television, are examples of what television interventions, as they came to be known, can be.

'For [Hall].. the video medium was an unexplored territory for artists, its codes yet uncracked. He argued that video art was integral to television and not just its technical by-product. TV - and its subversion - was where video's vital core was located, well beyond the ghettos of film co-ops, arts labs and art galleries. This view opened an unusual space, somewhere between high art formalism (which it resembled) and the mass arts (which it didn't). Anti-aesthetic and anti-populist - conceptual art with a looser, dada streak...'

Relative Surfaces
David Hall, 1974, 9min
[HLB]
A little seen early video work made on an early open reel 'portapak'

Vidicon Inscriptions (extract)
David Hall, 1973/4, 5min
[HLB]
Extract from a single screen tape from which evolved the later (1975) installation of the same name.

Documentation of three early video installations:
101 TV sets, 1972–5
60 TV Sets first shown at the A Survey of the avant-garde in Britain exhibition, Gallery House, Goethe Institute, London 1972 and 101 TV SETS first shown at The Video Show, Serpentine Gallery, London 1975.. The installation uses old TV sets (no video recording or playback equipment). Some operate normally, some distort, 'flash', or show a picture only intermittently, others operate sound only. They are mounted on simple building scaffold around a room and are tuned to different TV channels. The sound volume is high. Repairmen attend the sets in an effort to make each work perfectly. The atmosphere is one of media overdose and fruitless activity in attempting to correct the faults...

Progressive Recession, 1974
First shown at The Video Show, Serpentine Gallery, London 1975. A live interactive installation (using no video recording or playback equipment) which progressively manipulates and separates spatial constants - reflex and its origin. The disparity of movements through the visual field suggests a breakdown of the space/time continuum and the increasing separation of the participant's 'double identities'. It utilises 9 monitors in a corridor configuration. Two monitors are placed either end (facing each other) and the rest line one side. On top of each is a camera. The first monitor, at the side on entering the corridor, reflects the participant facing it - the camera above is directly linked to it. The second remains blank when facing it, the image from its respective camera appearing on the next (ahead of the participant's progression along the corridor), the third is also blank with its camera's output appearing on the monitor two ahead, and so on - the image moving further ahead by a systematic rate of 'acceleration'. The return journey along the corridor is similarly structured - participant relative to his/her image. The two end monitors are linked to their opposite cameras, each image receding away with the participant's move towards it.

These are the primary relationships in given positions. In fact, walking down the line of monitors, the participant sees a complex of partial images as he/she moves from one lens field to the next, and each, because of the reversed video-reflex, moves across the screen in the opposite direction. Equally, the receding images on the end monitors are complimented by a continuum of 'inserted' images of themselves (and the participant's recession) by facing the opposite cameras.

Vidicon Inscriptions (the installation), 1974–5
First shown at The Video Show Tate Gallery, London 1976 and at Video: Towards Defining an Aesthetic, Third Eye Centre, Glasgow 1976. Developed from a videotape of the same name, 1973/4. The signal plate at the front of a video camera's vidicon tube (c1970s) is designed to register a range of optical information and convert it to electronic signals. An over-bright source light or overlit subject will exceed its capacity for assimilation and the image can be temporarily, if not permanently, 'burnt' into the photoconductive surface. This unique phenomenon, in which both the passage of time (image movement) and a fixed trace of the continuum are simultaneously displayed, results in a correlation of the present and progressively receding past in the same camera at the same time - the participant's actions being systematically 'inscribed' at intervals. In this interactive piece a monitor linked to a camera above it faces the viewer at the end of a corridor. On moving towards it (and into a brightly-lit area) he/she triggers a photoelectric switch which opens a polaroid shutter in front of the lens. The shutter closes automatically after a few seconds. The participant's actions are seen on the monitor through the camera's polaroid filter, and his/her inscribed movements (with the shutter open) are retained, together with those of past participants, as part of the image indefinitely.

This is a Television Reciever
David Hall, 1976, 8min
Commissioned by BBC TV as the unannounced opening piece for their Arena video art programme, March 1976.

'Richard Baker [the well-known newsreader] describes the essential paradoxes of the real and imagined functions of the TV set on which he appears. The second shot is taken optically off a monitor, the third copied from the second, and so on, until there is a complete degeneration of both sound and image, removing the newsreader from his position of authority...' Tamara Krikorian, Art Monthly, February 1984.

'This figure of authority is reduced to what, in essence, he is - a series of pulsating patterns of light on the surface of a glass screen. In this way, paradoxically, the verbal statement is realised by its own disintegration, along with that of the image. The illusion of both transparency and of power are shattered. This is deconstruction in its primary, irreductable form; only by remembering these important lessons have artists subsequently been able to venture out of the enclosure of self-reflexivity and into the perilous world of representation and narrative...' Mark Wilcox, Deconstruct, Subverting Television cat., Arts Council of Great Britain 1984.

Intermission: 20 mins

Between
David Hall, 1972-3, 19min
Actor
David Hall, 1972-3, 9min
Phased Time 2
David Hall, 1974, 16 min

Monitors:
TV Interruptions 93(for MTV)reacTV, contexTV, exiTV, withouTV, and ecstaseeTV
David Hall, 1993
Conceived in the spirit of the 1971 pieces, TV Interruptions 93 were shot or post-produced using advanced colour video technology, electronic effects and a refinement gained over Hall's 25 years work in time-based media. Taken together, they constitute a potted summary of Hall's preoccupations in video and television, and perhaps of the progression of video art as a 'genre'...' Mick Hartney, InT/Ventions.., Diverse Practices: A Critical Reader on British Video Art 1996.

Stooky Bill TV
David Hall, 1990
An imaginary dialogue between the pioneer of television, John Logie Baird, and the eponymous ventriloquist's dummy used as the subject of his experimental cameras - hypothesises the thoughts of Baird and the dummy at the moment of the first successful transmission in October 1925. To Baird's insistence that TV will enable people to see themselves more than ever before, Stooky Bill ripostes that they will be led to demand the fantastical illusion that he represents.. Given the normal relationship of ventriloquist and dummy, this dialogue has numerous ironic implications...' Mick Hartney, InT/Ventions.., Diverse Practices: A Critical Reader on British Video Art 1996.

'This tape is a caustic glance backwards at Baird's legacy of 'dummy television', The piece is also a resounding formal success in so far as it presents an image equivalent to the one first produced in 1925.. All the trademarks of Hall's work are present here: dry wit, seriousness and the exploration of illusion; the awareness of material conditions and of cultural forms...' Michael O'Pray, A Directory of British Film and Video Artists 1996.


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