Bill Viola

Reverse Television – Portraits of Viewers


Werk - Reverse Television – Portraits of Viewers
Artist / Artist group
Bill Viola
Reverse Television – Portraits of Viewers
video, Analog video
Material / Technique
digital video, color, stereo
Dimensions / Duration
ZKM | Zentrum für Kunst und Medien

The video »Reverse Television – Portraits of Viewers« is based on a change of perspective: The viewers of the video assume the position of television sets. They look into the living rooms and bedrooms and at all the people who sit motionless in front of their TV sets for hours every day. Silently, people stare at the screen. The gaze directed towards the television meets the viewers directly. What show they are watching is not revealed.

The artist produced a total of 44 of these portraits, for which he chose subjects ranging in age from 16 to 93 from the Boston area. The recordings were broadcast by the U.S. television station WGBH-TV as half-minute inserts in 1983. The portraits were shown several times a day inserted into the television program during regular broadcasting hours and were not titled or announced before or after. For several weeks, Viola’s work was broadcast on public television and made visible the norms of television that have become self-evident and thus invisible, such as the rapid succession of stimuli of entertainment or suspense that serve to keep television viewers from switching off or on.

The 15-minute video is a compilation and documentation of the original recordings and shows all the portraits taken in chronological order for 15 seconds each.

Author: Lara Di Carlo

About the artist/s