Working within different genres, Gary Hill is particularly interested in interactive media and often incorporates text in his videos and installations. It is not only the words themselves that fascinate him, but just as much what he calls “electronic linguistics”. Several of his works are the result of his investigations into the relationship between language, image, identity, and body. He is more interested in the uses, signs, and corporeal sounds of language than in the content of what is being said. “When we begin to speak, to tell,” Hill notes, “we don’t know how we are going to end the thought.” It is in other words not merely a question of the physicality of language, but also the relation to the syntax of thought. In that respect, the spoken word is more present than the written word. Video art has the characteristic that it creates both intimacy and distance.
In Twofold (Goats and Sheep), Hill uses elements from a previous work, where a double projection on the wall shows a person using sign language. One of the pictures shows the person’s hands and arms, while the other, alternating picture shows the back of the person’s head and the top of the person’s shoulders. The pictures are black-and-white. Loudspeakers emit a calm, steady male voice that is synchronized with the sign language in the pictures. The voice conveys the same fairly repetitive message: “And what if the left hand knows that the right hand knows what the right hand is doing – is the left undone?” At the same time, a one-second delay in the soundtrack produces an echo of the voice. There is thus a doubling, or a mirror image, of a soundtrack that is adapted to a double image and that reproduces a parallel text: one that is spoken and one that is signed.
Text: Marianne Yvenes
From "Highlights. Art from 1945 to the Present", Nasjonalmuseet 2016, ISBN 978-82-8154-116-0