Behind The Scenes

Life of an Artwork: Belshazzar’s Feast by Susan Hiller

Explore the continually evolving history of this ghostly installation

People would say, I loved your work, but how did you film the devils on that? … And Susan would say, there aren't devils on there, these are shapes that you're seeing in the fire, you know, but Western culture does not encourage people to recognise their own capacity for imagination and for the play of visual imagery.
Gabriel Coxhead, Susan Hiller's son

Artist Susan Hiller created her video installation Belshazzar’s Feast, the Writing on Your Wall after reading newspaper coverage about people who had witnessed ghostly apparitions and mysterious messages on their TV sets after broadcasting ended at midnight. The press speculated about transmissions from UFOs or other supernatural events, but Hiller recognised what all these explanations refused to acknowledge, which was the innate power of human imagination.

Hiller made adjustments to Belshazzar’s Feast over her life and different versions have sometimes existed at the same time. But when the life of an artist ends, how do their artworks continue to live?

Support for the creation of this film was provided by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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