After seeing the Experimental Television Center show at Hunter College I went on a Gary Hill research tangent. Watch this ‘videotape’ titled Happenstance (part one of many parts), from 1982-83. (6:47 min, b&w, sound)

The Rutt-Etra is an image synthesizer that produces live modulation of oscilloscopic forms. This special technique has enabled Gary Hill to give this quality of presence to the visual transformations of Happenstance. What actually takes place is produced there and then, like the crystallisation of thought: words, forms, images are all bound and unbound. The musical rhythm and rapidity of the links make Happenstance a “conceptual clip”.

Gary Hill is at his peak here inasmuch as, in Happenstance, thought is expressed as a technical object, an instrument of transformation. First and foremost, it is the words that are the most mobile: speech moves forward, moves forward singing, with the written signs sliding in lines on the electronic screen. The visible shapes (round, square, and triangle) remain still within the frame or move on the spot by distorting their shape. In reality, the readable and the visible are electronically intertwined with the utmost subtlety, so that we see pyramids of letters twisting and liquefying.

The voluminous, pyramidal expression “Vanishing Points” disappears and disintegrates before our very eyes. The tautology between image and text differentiates between them with the brilliance of a cut. In both a literal and tangible way, Gary Hill manages, as he expresses it, to show that “words speak only of themselves”. The borderline between words and images, however, becomes incessantly more malleable and flexible. Words are things and things are words. Everything is represented by signs and hieroglyphs to be deciphered.

– Paul-Emmanuel Odin

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