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Gary Hill’s Language Willing draws viewers into dynamic environment of image and sound

Gary Hill, Accordians, 2001-02, five-channel video/sound installation, from the exhibition Gary Hill: Language Willing.

Photo courtesy of Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

October 03, 2003

TEMPE, Ariz. – The ASU Art Museum presents Gary Hill: Language Willing, an exhibition of recent works by one of today’s foremost artists working with video. The exhibition will run Oct. 25 – Jan. 25. Gary Hill will present a public lecture at 7:30 p.m., Oct. 28, in Neeb Hall on ASU’s main campus. A public reception is scheduled for 7-9 p.m., Nov. 1, at the ASU Art Museum.

Gary Hill is recognized as a pioneer in his art field. He has won numerous awards, including the Leone d’Oro Prize for Sculpture at the 1995 Venice Biennale, a Rockefeller and two Guggenheim Fellowships, and the Skowhegan Medal for Video Installation in 2003.

For three decades, Hill has used video imagery to investigate the integration of language and visual perception. His installations push video beyond a passive, two-dimensional medium to a dynamic environment where the viewer experiences the illusionary, hypnotic dimensions of time, consciousness and meaning.

Gary Hill: Language Willing continues the ASU Art Museum's history of being the first in the state to present major exhibitions of video art by emerging and internationally-known artists in the field. The exhibition features four room-size video/sound installations created over the past three years, including Hill’s most recent work, Language Willing, created last year, specifically for this exhibition.

Gary Hill is a Seattle-based artist who is well recognized in both Europe and the United States. In recent years he has presented video installations at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and the Kunstmuseum, Wolfsburg, Germany.Hill’s works lay the burden of sustaining a sense of story on the viewers, challenging them to interpret the combination of sound and image within their own reality. This is perhaps easiest to do in Wall Piece, in which the artist flings himself repeatedly at a wall, each time speaking a single word. The moments of impact are edited together into a 500-word piece in which the wall is clearly metaphorical of any impasse faced by the viewer.

Language Willing, the title work created especially for this exhibition, uses a background text performed by the Australian poet-composer Chris Mann as a linguistic pulse for two hands moving over two discs. The hands spin the flower-patterned disks, sometimes in unison, at other times independently and in separate directions. The result is a physical and verbal dance as the visual and oral rhythms merge and separate.

Filmed before 9-11, but now bearing the weight of that day, is Accordions (The Belsunce Recordings, July 2001). Recorded in an Algerian neighborhood in Marseille, France, Accordions creates “living portraits” of residents in this immigrant community. A camera located far from the subjects zooms in from the street scene to a randomly chosen resident, holding the image – which is then interspersed with longer and longer periods of black/silence – before zooming back out and returning the seemingly frozen image to time.

Gary Hill: Language Willing, is organized and toured by the Boise Art Museum. This exhibition is courtesy of the Gary Hill Studio and Donald Young Gallery, and is made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The ASU Art Museum, named “the single most impressive venue for contemporary art in Arizona” by Art in America, is part of the Herberger College of Fine Arts at Arizona State University. The museum is located in the Nelson Fine Arts Center on the southeast corner of Mill Avenue and 10th Street in Tempe. Entry is free. Hours are 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. on Tuesdays (during the academic year), and 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. For more information, call (480) 965-2787 or visit the museum online at

Media Contact:
Denise Tanguay