D a v i d  H a l l

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'A single figure dominates the beginnings of video art in Britain - David Hall.. and his early experiments with broadcast television are unique. Not only are many of his video pieces classics.. but he has made important and often brilliant contributions to experimental film, installation and sculpture. A successful sculptor in the 'new generation' school of the 1960s.. he turned his attention to the less tangible media of photography, film and video. A founding member of the video art movement here in the early 1970s, Hall was an influential activist on behalf of the infant art form...' (2)

 

David Hall (b. 1937) was awarded first prize for sculpture at the Biennale de Paris in 1965 and took part in other key shows including Primary Structures, New York in 1966 which marked the beginning of Minimalist art. Soon he was using photography, film and video to make single screen and installation work and exhibiting internationally at many venues including Documenta Kassel, Tate Gallery London, Centre Georges Pompidou Paris, National Museum Reina Sofia Madrid and the Museum of Modern Art Vienna.

 

His first television interventions appeared on Scottish TV in 1971 and his first video installation was shown in London in 1972. He participated in forming the Artist Placement Group with John Latham and others in 1966; was co-organiser of The Video Show (first major international show of artists' video in the UK) at the Serpentine Gallery, London in 1975; and was co-curator of the first video installations exhibition at the Tate Gallery, London in 1976. In the same year he initiated and was a founder of the artists' organisation London Video Arts (now part of Lux, London).

 

Appointed Honorary Professor at Dundee University in 2003 he has taught at the Royal College of Art, St Martin's School of Art, Chelsea College of Art, San Francisco Art Institute, Nova Scotia College of Art and many others. He introduced the term 'time-based media' through his writings, and created the first time-based art degree option with emphasis on video at Maidstone College of Art, Kent in 1972 (now University for the Creative Arts). He has made work for broadcast by, among others, BBC TV, Channel 4 TV, Scottish TV, Canal+ TV and MTV.

'In 1971 David Hall made ten TV Interruptions for Scottish Television which were broadcast, unannounced, in August and September of that year (a selection of seven of the ten was later issued as 7 TV Pieces). These, his first works for television, are examples of what television interventions, as they came to be known, can be. Although a number of interventions have subsequently been made by various artists, the 7 TV Pieces have not been surpassed, except by Hall himself in This is a Television Receiver for BBC TV in 1976, and Stooky Bill TV for Channel 4 TV in 1990...' (3)

'These works have come to be regarded as the first example of British artists' television and as an equally formative moment in British video art...' (4)

'For [Hall].. the video medium was an unexplored territory for artists, its codes yet uncracked. He argued that video art was integral to television and not just its technical by-product. TV - and its subversion - was where video's vital core was located, well beyond the ghettos of film co-ops, arts labs and art galleries. This view opened an unusual space, somewhere between high art formalism (which it resembled) and the mass arts (which it didn't). Anti-aesthetic and anti-populist - conceptual art with a looser, dada streak...' (5)

A Situation Envisaged: The Rite II (Cultural Eclipse), video installation 1988/1990

'The installations of David Hall.. along with many of his videotapes, have concentrated upon the physical reality of TV as a site of exchange, a creator of illusion, a channel of information, or what Baudrillard terms 'a screen of ecstatic refraction'. In several of his [later] installations Hall has presented the viewer only with the back of the television sets.. In these works we are simultaneously denied the pleasure of looking at a TV screen, given another view of television, literally the view we never choose to look at, and reminded of the fact that television conceals as much as, or more than, it reveals...' (6)

'The question was that of knowing how to introduce resistance into this cultural industry. I believe that the only line to follow is to produce programmes for TV, or whatever, which produce in the viewer.. an effect of uncertainty and trouble. It seems to me that the thing to aim at is a certain sort of feeling or sentiment. You can't introduce concepts, you can't produce argumentation. This type of media isn't the place for that, but you can produce a feeling of disturbance, in the hope that this disturbance will be followed by reflection. I think that that's the only thing one can say, and obviously it's up to every artist to decide by what means s/he thinks s/he can produce this disturbance...' (7)

References

1. Sean Cubitt, Greyscale Video and the Shift to Colour, Art Journal, Fall 2006.

2. Michael O'Pray, Monthly Film Bulletin, British Film Institute, February 1988, and A Directory of British Film and Video Artists, ed. David Curtis, Arts Council of England 1996.

3. Nicky Hamlyn, Coil magazine 9/10, London 2000.

4. Chronology, Diverse Practices: A Critical Reader on British Video Art, ed. Julia Knight, Arts Council of England 1996.

5. A L Rees, Stephen Partridge catalogue, University of Dundee 1999.

6. Jeremy Welsh, Video Positive catalogue, Tate Gallery Liverpool, Moviola 1991.

7. Jean-François Lyotard, Brief Reflections on Popular Culture, Institute of Contemporary Arts Documents 4, London, 1986.

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