Not on display
TV Interruptions (7 TV Pieces): Installation Version 1971–2006 is a video installation consisting of seven monitors placed in close proximity to each other in a single space. Each monitor plays a short black and white film with sound on a continuous loop. The seven films were initially conceived to be broadcast as television interventions as part of the Edinburgh Festival in 1971 and were re-cast by the artist in this installation version in 2006. In the installation the sound and image conflict with each other and viewers simultaneously see parts of other films as they attempt to concentrate on one. This induces a sense of chaos and of uncertainty which to some extent replicates the television viewers’ experience when the films were originally shown on television. Commissioned in 1971 as part of the Scottish Arts Council’s Locations Edinburgh event, TV Interruptions was made in collaboration with the television producer Anna Ridley and the German artist Gerry Schum, who shot the footage on film because no video-recording equipment was available. These were the first of Hall’s experiments with ‘TV interruptions’.
There were originally ten films, of which seven were later issued as 7 TV Pieces. They depict very simple actions, ranging from burning television sets to a running household tap or a view of a street. Each film lasts about three minutes and is titled individually: Interruption Piece, Tap Piece, Window Piece, Time Lapse Piece, Pans Piece, Street Piece and Two Figures. The films were broadcast unannounced and at random a number of times over the ten days of transmission, presumably during the regional television channel’s advertising breaks or instead of the many public information films that were broadcast at the time. Hall was busy shooting each work day by day, so he missed most of the transmissions, as he explained: ‘I didn’t have much opportunity to see them because we were working every day on a new one. I can’t remember how it went. I would literally in the evening be thinking about what I might do the next day, trying to work out an idea. The next morning I would shoot an idea.’ (Quoted in Cubitt and Partridge 2012, p.78.) He did, however, manage to watch two of the interruptions and has recalled:
I went to an old gentleman’s club in Princess Street in Edinburgh and the TV was on and it’s when the Tap piece was going to come on. They had a TV on all the time and they were all sleeping or reading newspapers, dozing and then suddenly the TV began to fill up with water and the newspapers dropped, they all woke up and looked amazed. They were disgruntled and then it finished, and they all dozed off again. That seemed to me to be actually quite a positive thing. It was the sort of thing I was looking for I think. And the other occasion was when I went to a TV shop, where they sold and repair TVs … some engineers were working on repairing stuff and were all very enthusiastic [to see the work]. But it was the last piece, the Two Figures piece, I remember it beeping and it went on and on and on and on. At the end of it, there was so much anger in their faces I had to leave by the back door.
(Quoted in Cubitt and Partridge 2012, p.78.)
The idea of inserting the films as interruptions to regular programmes was crucial to the work and a major influence on their content. For both Hall and Schum, it was vital that the works appeared unannounced and with no titles, and as such they had to negotiate with the heads of the television station to have them transmitted without mediation by the broadcasters. Hall has recalled:
[the works] had to be shipped off to Glasgow to be broadcast and I say, ‘Look I don’t want any voices or any announcements. I don’t want anything to be said, or any credits or anything.’ I was pretty tough for an artist. Most artists love to have their names splattered over everything as the auteur. But no, it was most important that this was a surprise, a mystery.
(Quoted in Cubitt and Partridge 2012, p.77.)
Hall considered video to be essentially ‘time-based’ art, a concept he coined and developed through his own writings and which recalls the work of experimental film makers Hollis Frampton and Paul Sharits who drew attention to the fact that temporal development could not be abandoned in film, however radical their attempts to destroy it were. Hall embraced in video the temporal and spatial dimensions that it could afford compared to other artistic media. TV Interruptions is exemplary of this stance, as the actual work was by definition located at the interface with the medium of television at the moment of transmission. Hall accepted that broadcast television had already shaped or conditioned the viewer’s expectations, but contested the process and language of that conditioning by exposing the specific properties of the medium.
Hall’s interest in time-based media has been a lifelong project. Following these first television interventions in 1971, he exhibited his first video installation in London in 1972. In 1966 he was one of the founder members of the Artist Placement Group with John Latham (1921–2006) and others, and in 1975 he co-organised the international exhibition Video Show at the Serpentine Gallery, London. He was co-curator of the first exhibition of video installation at the Tate Gallery, London in 1976. In that same year, he initiated and was a founder member of the artists’ organisation London Video Arts (now part of LUX).
John E. Walker, Arts TV. A History of Arts Television in Britain, London 1993.
Sean Cubitt and Stephen Partridge, Rewind. British Artists’ Video in the 1970s & 1980s, London 2012.
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