Light Music is an innovative work presented originally as a performance that experiments with celluloid and sound to push the formal, spatial and performative boundaries of cinema. An iconic work of expanded cinema, it creates a more central and participatory role for the viewer within a dynamic, immersive environment.
Formed from two projections facing one another on opposite screens, Light Music is Rhodes’s response to what she perceived as the lack of attention paid to women composers in European music. She composed a ‘score’ comprised of drawings that form abstract patterns of black and white lines onscreen. The drawings are printed onto the optical edge of the filmstrip. As the bands of light and dark pass through the projector they are ‘read’ as audio, creating an intense soundtrack, forming a direct, indexical relationship between the sonic and the visual. What one hears is the aural equivalent to the flickering patterns on the screens.
Light Music is projected into a hazy room – the beams that traverse one another in the space between the two projections become ethereal sculptural forms comprised of light, shadow and theatrical smoke. This format is designed to encourage viewers to move between the screens, directly engaging with the projection beams, forming a set of social relations in which cinema is transformed into a collective event without a single point of focus. Light Music occupies an important threshold in film history, drawing on early experiments in ‘visual music’ from the 1920s by pioneers including Oskar Fischinger, Hans Richter and Walther Ruttmann, and subsequently opening cinematic practice up to a host of concerns from gender politics to phenomenological experience.
Lis Rhodes (born 1942, London) is a major figure in the history of artists’ filmmaking in Britain and was a leading member of the influential London Filmmakers’ Co-op. She currently lives and works in London, where a survey exhibition of her career, Lis Rhodes: Dissonance and Disturbance, was held at the ICA from January to March 2012. Her films are distributed by LUX.
Semiotics of the Kitchen adopts the form of a parodic cooking demonstration in which, Rosler states, “An anti-Julia Child replaces the domesticated ‘meaning’ of tools with a lexicon of rage and frustration.” In this performance-based work, a static camera is focused on a woman in a kitchen. On a counter before her are a variety of utensils, each of which she picks up, names and proceeds to demonstrate, but with gestures that depart from the normal uses of the tool. In an ironic grammatology of sound and gesture, the woman and her implements enter and transgress the familiar system of everyday kitchen meanings — the securely understood signs of domestic industry and food production erupt into anger and violence. In this alphabet of kitchen implements, states Rosler, “when the woman speaks, she names her own oppression.”
Electronic Arts Intermix
In this well-known early tape, Jonas manipulates the grammar of the camera to create the sense of a grossly disturbed physical space. The space functions as a metaphor for the unstable identity of the costumed and masked female figure roaming the screen, negotiating the rolling barrier of the screen’s bottom edge. “[Making] use of a jarring rhythmic technique to develop a sense of fragmentation, Vertical Roll uses a common television set malfunction of the same name to establish a constantly shifting stage for the actions that relate both to the nature of the image and to the artist’s projected psychological state.”
—David Ross, “Joan Jonas’s Videotapes” in Joan Jonas: Scripts and Descriptions, 1968-1982, ed. Douglas Crimp (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983)
“In (nostalgia), Frampton is clearly working with the experience of cinematic temporality. The major structural strategy is a disjunction between sound and image. We see a series of still photographs, most of them taken by Frampton, slowly burning one at a time on a hotplate. On the soundtrack, we hear Frampton’s comments and reminiscences about the photographs. As we watch each photograph burn, we hear the reminiscence pertaining to the following photograph. The sound and image are on two different time schedules. At any moment, we are listening to a commentary about a photograph that we shall be seeing in the future and looking at a photograph that we have just heard about. We are pulled between anticipation and memory. The nature of the commentary reinforces the complexity; it arouses our sense of anticipation by referring to the future; it also reminisces about the past, about the time and conditions under which the photographs were made. The double time sense results in a complex, rich experience.” – Bill Simon
David Hall – TV Interruptions: Tap piece (full version) 1971
Conceived and made specifically for broadcast, these were transmitted by Scottish TV during the Edinburgh Festival. The idea of inserting them as interruptions to regular programmes was crucial and a major influence on their content. That they appeared unannounced, with no titles, was essential.. These transmissions were a surprise, a mystery. No explanations, no excuses.
‘A single figure dominates the beginnings of video art in Britain – David Hall.. and his early experiments with broadcast television are unique. Not only are many of his video pieces classics.. but he has made important and often brilliant contributions to experimental film, installation and sculpture. A successful sculptor in the ‘new generation’ school of the 1960s.. he turned his attention to the less tangible media of photography, film and video. A founding member of the video art movement here in the early 1970s, Hall was an influential activist on behalf of the infant art form…’ (2)
David Hall (b. 1937) was awarded first prize for sculpture at the Biennale de Paris in 1965 and took part in other key shows including Primary Structures, New York in 1966 which marked the beginning of Minimalist art. Soon he was using photography, film and video to make single screen and installation work and exhibiting internationally at many venues including Documenta Kassel, Tate Gallery London, Centre Georges Pompidou Paris, National Museum Reina Sofia Madrid and the Museum of Modern Art Vienna.
His first television interventions appeared on Scottish TV in 1971 and his first video installation was shown in London in 1972. He participated in forming the Artist Placement Group with John Latham and others in 1966; was co-organiser of The Video Show (first major international show of artists’ video in the UK) at the Serpentine Gallery, London in 1975; and was co-curator of the first video installations exhibition at the Tate Gallery, London in 1976. In the same year he initiated and was a founder of the artists’ organisation London Video Arts (now part of Lux, London).
Appointed Honorary Professor at Dundee University in 2003 he has taught at the Royal College of Art, St Martin’s School of Art, Chelsea College of Art, San Francisco Art Institute, Nova Scotia College of Art and many others. He introduced the term ‘time-based media’ through his writings, and created the first time-based art degree option with emphasis on video at Maidstone College of Art, Kent in 1972 (now University for the Creative Arts). He has made work for broadcast by, among others, BBC TV, Channel 4 TV, Scottish TV, Canal+ TV and MTV.
‘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. Although a number of interventions have subsequently been made by various artists, the 7 TV Pieces have not been surpassed, except by Hall himself in This is a Television Receiver for BBC TV in 1976, and Stooky Bill TV for Channel 4 TV in 1990…’ (3)
‘These works have come to be regarded as the first example of British artists’ television and as an equally formative moment in British video art…’ (4)
‘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…’ (5)
A Situation Envisaged: The Rite II (Cultural Eclipse), video installation 1988/1990
‘The installations of David Hall.. along with many of his videotapes, have concentrated upon the physical reality of TV as a site of exchange, a creator of illusion, a channel of information, or what Baudrillard terms ‘a screen of ecstatic refraction’. In several of his [later] installations Hall has presented the viewer only with the back of the television sets.. In these works we are simultaneously denied the pleasure of looking at a TV screen, given another view of television, literally the view we never choose to look at, and reminded of the fact that television conceals as much as, or more than, it reveals…’ (6)
‘The question was that of knowing how to introduce resistance into this cultural industry. I believe that the only line to follow is to produce programmes for TV, or whatever, which produce in the viewer.. an effect of uncertainty and trouble. It seems to me that the thing to aim at is a certain sort of feeling or sentiment. You can’t introduce concepts, you can’t produce argumentation. This type of media isn’t the place for that, but you can produce a feeling of disturbance, in the hope that this disturbance will be followed by reflection. I think that that’s the only thing one can say, and obviously it’s up to every artist to decide by what means s/he thinks s/he can produce this disturbance…’ (7)
1. Sean Cubitt, Greyscale Video and the Shift to Colour, Art Journal, Fall 2006.
2. Michael O’Pray, Monthly Film Bulletin, British Film Institute, February 1988, and A Directory of British Film and Video Artists, ed. David Curtis, Arts Council of England 1996.
3. Nicky Hamlyn, Coil magazine 9/10, London 2000.
4. Chronology, Diverse Practices: A Critical Reader on British Video Art, ed. Julia Knight, Arts Council of England 1996.
5. A L Rees, Stephen Partridge catalogue, University of Dundee 1999.
6. Jeremy Welsh, Video Positive catalogue, Tate Gallery Liverpool, Moviola 1991.
7. Jean-François Lyotard, Brief Reflections on Popular Culture, Institute of Contemporary Arts Documents 4, London, 1986.
Nam June Paik’s “Electronic Superhighway”
Rediscovering Paik: A Chat With Smithsonian Curator John G. Hanhardt
Posted by John Anderson on Mar. 31, 2011 at 3:13 pm
Given the recent opening of an exhibition of Nam June Paik’s work at the National Gallery of Art, as well as the long-term commitment to media art the Smithsonian American Art Museum has made its Watch This! exhibition, I thought now would be a good time to talk with SAAM’s senior curator for media arts, John G. Hanhardt, about the Nam June Paik archives. SAAM acquired the archives in 2009 and plans to dedicate an exhibition to them next year. We discussed the institution’s commitment to Paik and the history of the moving image, the difficulties of presenting media art, and the upcoming show.
Washington City Paper: Since a personal relationship often springs from a professional relationship, how well did you know Paik?
John Hanhardt: I knew him very well from the early 1970s, and I was privileged to be engaged in his work and to include his work in numerous exhibitions. I traveled with him to Germany where he introduced me to many of his colleagues and friends. I would visit him and his wife, Shigeko [Kubota], in his loft and studio. We were in active personal communication and spent time together. After his stroke I visited him very shortly thereafter in the hospital, and flew down to Miami, frequently, to see him. I spent time with him regularly until the end. A lot of our conversations were about projects, because he was always working on things: whether it was developing a satellite television project, or a video tape, or a sculpture. Some of those projects were discussed because I was involved in them as a curator and some of those things we discussed were because he wanted me to know about them.