Reverse Television — Portraits of Viewers, 1984
Single channel video
Courtesy the Artist and Electronic Arts Intermix
Produced by the New Television Workshop, WGBH, Boston
For Reverse Television Bill Viola videotaped viewers of WGBH, the Public Television Station in Boston, who ranged in age from 16 to 93. The 44 portraits were all of people from around the Boston area; all were shot in their own living room (or TV room) and were filmed in ten minutes of continuous shooting, with ambient audio.
One minute unbroken portraits were created to be broadcast each hour of the broadcast day, over several weeks. It was intended that these portraits would appear during programming breaks one at a time with no indication to the viewer of what they were. They were to appear often, so that a viewer who might not recognize what he or she saw but after seeing more than one might become intrigued. The work was actually presented during two weeks in late November 1983 on WGBH and the PBS channel as 30 second segments, each airing 5 times a day. The video seen here is a series of 15 second excerpts presented in the order they were recorded.
Bill Viola is no stranger to broadcast television and is considered a pioneer in the medium of video art. Both WGBH and WNET-13 (New York) supported him with the facilities for video available in their television labs, allowing him to make work which few other artists were able to do. As a result, he is now known internationally as one of today‚Äôs leading artists. He has been instrumental in the establishment of video as a vital form of contemporary art, and in so doing has helped to greatly expand its scope in terms of technology, content, and historical reach. For over 35 years he has created videotapes, architectural video installations, sound environments, electronic music performances, flat panel video pieces, and works for television broadcast.