- Liminal Performance
Gary Hill in conversation with George Quasha and Charles Stein
Gary Hill’s seminal and internationally celebrated work in various media—especially video and installation art (with a broad orientation including cybernetics, electronics, sound, language, and image)—has been exhibited at major museums around the world including solo exhibitions at Guggenheim Museum SoHo in New York, Stedelijk in Amsterdam, Hirshhorn in Washington, D.C., Museum of Modern Art in New York, Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, Kunsthalle in Vienna, Watari Museum in Tokyo, and Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, among others. His writings have been published in Camera Obscura/24, Illuminating Video: An Essential Guide to Video Art and Video Communications, No. 48, as well as numerous catalogues and books devoted to his work. Over the years his work has included live performance incorporating, for instance, video projection and complex uses of text and sound, sometimes in collaboration with others, including the poet/artists George Quasha and Charles Stein, and, most recently, choreographer Meg Stuart and her company, Damaged Goods, based in Brussels.
Hill’s friendship and multifaceted artistic association with George Quasha and Charles Stein go back to the late 1970s when he lived in Barrytown, New York, and participated in projects at the Arnolfini Art Center in Rhinebeck (founded by George Quasha and Susan Quasha), under the sponsorship of their arts organization, Open Studio, Ltd. The Quasha-Stein collaboration, beginning in the early 70s, has included sound/text performance, recorded by Hill in his 1985 video Tale Enclosure, and an ongoing “dialogical process” that has led to different kinds of work, including a series of articles and books on Gary Hill (see Bibliography).
George Quasha’s books include, as poet, Somapoetics, Giving the Lily Back Her Hands, and the forthcoming In No Time; and, as editor, the anthologies America a Prophecy: A New Reading of American Poetry from Pre-Columbian Times to the Present and Open Poetry. He has exhibited as visual artist, taught at SUNY Stony Brook and other universities, and served as co-publisher/editor of Station Hill Press (since 1978) and Barrytown, Ltd. Charles Stein is the author of numerous books of poetry, including The Hat Rack Tree, a critical study of the poet Charles Olson, and is the [End Page 1] editor of the anthology Being=Space x Action: Searches for Freedom of Mind in Art, Mathematics and Mysticism. He has exhibited as photographer, taught in Bard College’s innovative Music Program Zero and at SUNY Albany, and served as associate publisher/editor of Station Hill Press and Barrytown, Ltd.
Your identity as artist seems complex virtually from the beginning: sculptor, sound artist (also sculptural), video artist, creator of installations involving electronics (especially video), language art (“video poetics,” as we have called it), and performance art. The latter is perhaps the least well defined and therefore the most interesting ground to break in the present context. But you started out as a sculptor, working with metal. Let’s begin by tracing why you turned to video.
There were a number of overlapping events that took place from 1969 to 1973 when I was living in Woodstock, New York. I did a lot of sound work with my sculpture—sounds generated by the metal constructions themselves. Then I began using tape recorders working with tape loops, feedback, and other electronic sound. I had a little EMS synthesizer in a briefcase. At around the same time, and for the most part by chance, I did some recording with a portapak that I borrowed from Woodstock Community Video. The fluidity of taping and viewing in real-time freed up my thinking in a very radical way. Suddenly the sculpture I had been doing for several years seemed overwhelmingly tedious and distant from this present-tense process. Video allowed the possibility to “think out loud” as if with some “other” self. It was a continuously self-renewing situation—like “reality,” yet the monitoring gave it a sense of hyperreality. Here was an immediately accessible process that was a seemingly much closer parallel to thinking than basic sculpture.
The very first thing I did was...