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Mixing Technology and Art

American artist Gary Hill talks about his innovative use of technology in art.

American artist Gary Hill’s renowned installations combine video, sound, text and more into highly visceral experiences. They have been displayed in museums and institutions worldwide. He has worked with many different forms of media since the early 1970’s, and has been a pioneer in extending the possibilities of video and installation art. Hill visited India as a featured artist in the Kochi-Muziris Biennale in December 2016.  

Excerpts from an interview.

What first inspired you to become an artist?
A close friend’s brother first taught me how to weld, as I was very intrigued by some of the sculptures he made. I was 15 years old then. I saved money from my summer job to buy welding tanks and started welding in all my spare time, except for a little surfing. [Pablo] Picasso was a huge influence on my early work.

How were you introduced to the video medium and what intrigued you to explore it in your work?
I was making sculpture and had moved from California to Woodstock, New York, around 1973. A place called Woodstock Community Video had just moved up from New York City and I wanted to see what it was all about. I met Ken Marsh, the then director, and he spontaneously gave me a run-through of the various electronic imaging devices that they were using. The immediacy and the sensation of being able to touch things electronically were a real turning point for me. Soon after, I worked there as the TV lab coordinator, and had access to all kinds of equipment.

Please tell us about the broad process you follow to bring an idea to life.
Truthfully, I don’t really have a fixed methodology. I try to be present in the given cybernetic situation and be open to whatever is happening in the process. Many times, I do start with an overriding concept though and follow it wherever it leads me.

Have you discovered any new tools and technologies that have affected your recent work?
Everything is a tool, including, at times, the loss of technology and various other limitations. Sometimes, limiting myself helps get a work off the ground. They all take on a life of their own.

You’ve shared many of your past works on your Vimeo page. How has the Internet changed your process and access to new audiences?
I actually don’t think a lot about audience or public consumption when I’m making a work. I assume I’m connected to a collective consciousness, which allows the ideas and works to infiltrate open mind space. I do, however, like having the possibility to share my work online with whoever may not have a chance to see it otherwise.

You were among the featured artists at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2016. Please share your experience.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to experience much new art in India, as I was installing almost the entire time I was there. My work was in Durbar Hall and away from the central location of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. It was certainly a welcomed curatorial view, including sound works and other experimental work.

This was the first time I visited India, and I was deeply moved by the people, the colors, the perfumes, the cuisine and, generally, the feeling of goodwill and happiness that permeated my entire time. I was extremely lucky to have such committed assistants and volunteers helping me throughout my stay.

Jason Chiang is a freelance writer based in Silver Lake, Los Angeles.