Video (color, stereo sound)
Original format: U-matic
Running time: 43:51 min.
Inspired by the novel Thomas the Obscure by Maurice Blanchot wherein the protagonist of the novel is the reader of the novel he is in (who may well be Blanchot himself). In the video, Thomas the protagonist is played by Hill which confounds the self-reflexive nature of the book’s relationships all the more, making the video something of a “transcreation.” The “reader” begins in the liquidity of the text almost as if he were waking from drowning. Images of the sea ravishing the shore – small cliffs of sand eroding and collapsing – are inter-cut with extreme close-ups of text and the texture of the page and book itself being flooded with ocean waves. In scene after scene the reader attempts to re-enter the book only to find himself a part of intense dreams and hallucinations. Thomas/Hill reads the book, when, suddenly, he feels he is being watched by the words. The character then experiences the book as a forest of words he is fighting through. Another “chapter” finds him alone in his room at night, overcome by a strange illness, in which the vision of the text has him vomiting violently. The text infiltrates the reader’s entire experience. Thinking he is still capable of functioning socially, the character finds himself at dinner with a group of hotel guests. Their conversation turns into isolated words that, like the sand, erode and wash away with seemingly all possibilities of meaning. The final scene shows the reader in the form of Hill physically and mentally destroyed. Cowering naked in the fetal position, he lies in his own excrement on a white-tiled floor, babbling unintelligible sounds. The pages of the book have grown into monumental walls with colossal letters that menacingly surround and imprison the naked body.
Gary Hill: Selected Works and catalogue raisonné, edited by Holger Broeker (Wolfsburg: Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, 2002), GHCR 59, pp. 130 – 132.