Picture Story, 1979
Video (color, sound); 7:00 min.

Rutt/Etra video synthesizer, two black-and-white cameras, microphone, Dave Jones prototype modules (variable hard/soft edge keyer, color field generators, output amplifier), and felt tip pen

“A structural work (with humor) that uses indeterminacy to forge an abstract landscape upon which the ‘vision’ of an ox appears. A sequence of words—hierarchically ordered from the utilitarian (functions and processes of the tools being used to make the piece) to the more abstract and conceptual, ‘content,’ ‘concept,’ and ‘vision’—become the building blocks of a linguistic picture story.”

A yellow rectangle containing a single word appears against a blue background. The word field moves across the screen, varying in size, proportion and changing direction, until collapsing to either a vertical line, horizontal line, or point, at which time the picture becomes still. A hand enters the picture and traces the residual line or point with a marker seen electronically as red. More fields follow, in which words are sometimes mirrored vertically or horizontally. Slowly, a network of verticals and horizontals is built up, line by line. As each line is marked in, a voice is heard saying one word. Over the duration of the piece, a description of a linguistic detail is given. “Four letters in the alphabet possess a quality significantly different than the others. When upside down or backwards their character remains the same. The letters H, I, O and X remain the same. The letters are H, I, O, X or HI OX.” A primitive drawing of an ox appears in the landscape, and the voice continues, “Furthermore O and X may be turned ninety degrees in any direction and still contain their original meaning.” With this last sentence the ox image is rotated to a “dead” upside down position.

Quasha, George and Charles Stein. An Art of Limina: Gary Hill’s Works and Writings. Barcelona: Ediciones Polígrafa, 2009, p. 588.

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