This work is the single-channel version of a multi-channel installation of the same name. The picture plane is divided into a left and a right half. A changing background is formed by colorful, highly graphic patterns reminiscent of TV test signals and various monochrome surfaces. Two smaller rectangles appear on the surface, in which video sequences are running. The two image strands show landscapes, interiors, objects, graphical images and text that are sometimes used in contrast, and on other occasions the same image can be seen mirrored in each rectangle. They are accompanied by Hill’s recitation of a long text, whose syllabic sequence determines the rhythm of the images (the screen changes with each uttered syllable). His voice comes alternately out of the left and right stereo channels functioning like a dialogue. This is broken into sections by a singing, but electronically altered, voice. The text, constructed for the most part from idiomatic expressions, extends the themes seen in Around & About, 1980. In both works, the artist is concerned with disclosing and deciphering the codes of human relations. The desire for a community through language comes very much to the fore, while the constantly changing images attempt to compete.
Broeker, Holger, ed. Gary Hill: Selected Works and catalogue raisonné. Wolfsburg: Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, 2002, GHCR 47, pp. 105 – 110.
[Also see 'Father' (2005), available via a separate link on this Vimeo page]
‘Mother + Father’ are two elaborate video montages that deploy footage pilfered from mainstream cinema to reflect on archetypal familial roles as these are portrayed within popular culture. The works are each installed across a support of six plasma displays.
Across the range of actors playing in ‘Father’—Tony Danza, Dustin Hoffman, Harvey Keitel, Steve Martin, Donald Sutherland, and Jon Voight—sex seems to be of key importance, as a point of reference for self-understanding and familial control, but also in relation to the blossoming sexuality of the daughter, which needs to be thwarted at all costs. The mothers (Faye Dunaway, Susan Sarandon, Julia Roberts, Diane Keaton, Shirley McLaine, and Meryl Streep) counter these paternal intimidations and fears with their own blend of self-hostility, addressing topics such as motherly guilt and sacrifice, as well as an apparently shared loathing of abandonment and emptiness.
The conversations between each set of parents are rife with repetition and digitally evoked psychological tics. Within the fictional spaces of each of these collectivised psycho-profiles, the archetypes flicker across their respective screens rhythmically, appearing and disappearing at unpredictable intervals: they are as unstable as images within these constructed constellations, as they are as components of a supposedly reliable fiction of identity. Within each of the parental polylogues there is a staging of anxiety and insecurity—both imaginary and received—simultaneously projected outward and reflected inward in an inescapable cycle. Missing interlocutors (all traces of the other actors who appeared opposite the selected mothers and fathers in the source movies are digitally erased) haunt the installations. What may at first appear as a series of interwoven monologues in Breitz’s partnered installations, is nevertheless always directed towards an other that serves as constitutive foil for the construction or indeed invention of selfhood; or rather for the projection of that which can feature as self in imaginary response to the needs of fabricated others. The prominent other to ‘Mother’ is the child, and particularly the daughter as a figure combining the possibility of both positions—mothers are often also mothers of mothers—and thus triggering the internal multiplication of monolithic role constructions, or indeed leading to their un-doing. Naturalised familial bonds come under pressure at moments where ‘Mother’ describes her abandonment of a son or confesses to having made mistakes, though only out of love.... By contrast, ‘Father’ patrols the space of control and authority, a form of parental recognition that is imposed and enforced rather than negotiated. Here the child (as other) is a constant threat to the rule of the father.
Breitz isolates and reduces the fragmented statements and performances extracted for her purposes, while simultaneously unleashing them into new lateral dialogues. In her appropriation of dysfunctional Hollywood gender-normativity, the different cast members appear to be listening to each other and performing alongside each other, as much as they seem to be rehearsing their roles before colleagues. The psychological condition of denial and the filmic suspension of disbelief are the mirrored fault lines along which familial and screen roles coincide as Breitz probes these clichéd models and their respective claims for plausibility.