Up Against Down is the first solo exhibition in Berlin of the renowned media artist Gary Hill. Focusing on new pieces, the exhibition looks at a rare body of non-verbal works by an artist known for work that examines language/image relationships. In this exhibition, Hill’s work brings contradictory notions of physicality, emptiness and hyper reality that reside comfortably in liminal space and suspended time. Among the works included in the show are three installations shown for the first time in Berlin.
Up Against Down (2008) consists of six projections of various parts of the artist’s body forcibly pressing or pushing against a seemingly infinite pure black space. The physicality of this endless struggle is reinforced by intense amplification of low frequency sine waves that are modulated by the body’s pressure and resemble a kind of primal drumming. The obscurity of the space and the lack of context strip the repetitive activity of rationale and focus on the fervent concentration and relentlessness of the effort, entrapped in futility and frustration.
Isolation Tank (2010 – 2011) is a single channel video projection of entirely computer generated imagery. An object seen from afar drifts in the middle of the ocean. The camera slowly approaches it and reveals it is a lone surfboard. An emblem reminiscent of a Mahakala (a protector of Dharma in Tibetan Buddhism) almost imperceptibly morphes into another visage (perhaps a representation of the artist's face?). Suddenly a rogue wave appears from nowhere throwing a wall of water over the surfboard. The board reemerges as the camera pulls back and hovers above the scene. The sound of an unseen helicopter begins to dissipate as the view returns to the opening vantage point. The possibility of the surfer being death lingers on while the scene resumes its sublime serenity.
Beauty Is in the Eye (2011) consists of an HD video and a stereo photo diptych seen through a free-standing stereoscopic viewer. The color image is of the artist in a phantasmagoric costume complete with make-up, suggesting a cross between an extraterrestrial minstrel and a joker of some kind. In one hand he holds a tray of small test tubes with flowers. The other hand is gesturing forward with a singular flower as if to make an offering. The video on the opposite wall shows people receiving the flower offerings one at a time. From darkness a single person emerges and walks towards the being to take the gift and is seen to reflect upon it in a multitude of ways. As each person touches the flower and responds to it, a complex sound of delicate electronic timbres bursts open, seemingly reflecting the flower and viewer's interconnectedness. Visually seductive and mind teasing, this timeless “interaction” between the artist trickster and the viewer takes place in a kind of separate reality.
Gary Hill was born in Santa Monica, California, in 1951 and currently lives in Seattle, Washington. He has been working with sculpture and electronic media since the early 1970’s and has produced a large body of both single-channel video works and mixed media installations. His long-time work with intermedia continues to explore an array of issues ranging from the physicality oflanguage, synesthesia and perceptual conundrums to ontological space and viewer interactivity.