New Television Workshop Collection

New Television Workshop Collection Program MaterialsArtist's Showcase

Video clip of Four Songs

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Four Songs

Extent:
1 videoreel of 1 (ca. 34 1/2 min.) : sd., col. ; 2 in.
1 videocassette of 1 (Betacam SP) (ca. 34 1/2 min.) : sd., col. ; 1/2 in.
1 videocassette of 1 (D3) (ca. 34 1/2 min.) : sd., col. ; 1/2 in.
1 videocassette of 1 (VHS) (ca. 34 1/2 min.) : sd., col. ; 1/2 in.

Copyright Date:
1977

Copyright Holder:
Bill Viola

Artist:
Viola, Bill

Background:
This was produced with the Television Laboratory at WNET. Some of the postproduction work on individual segments was done at Synapse in Syracuse. It was acquired by WGBH to be aired as part of the "Artist's Showcase" series.

Scope:
Includes a 2" master, Betacam SP and D3 preservation masters, and VHS and 3/4" screening copies of the completed work.

Viola's "Four Songs" is composed of four distinct segments, which deal with the passing of time and the impact of gestures and activities:

"Junkyard Levitation" -- A figure lies down, surrounded by the refuse of a junkyard. Slowly, a shadow passes over his body as an unseen magnet causes the metal scraps in front of him to reach towards the sky, mysteriously standing upright. When this activity is complete, the figure stands up and walks away, just as a train is passing in the distance.

"Songs of Innocence" -- A classroom of schoolchildren perform two musical numbers with their teacher on the lawn in front of a large building. Some of the children strum on guitars as accompaniment to the singing, while others perform gestures to illustrate key images in the lyrics. The children depart from the area, leaving behind a small floral arrangement and candle. The camera rests on this vacated space for quite some time, as day turns into night. Occasionally, an airplane passes in the sky above. The schoolchildren return to the surroundings like ghosts, their images and sounds faintly superimposed.

"Space Between the Teeth" -- Bill Viola is seated in an armchair against a stark background, his silence punctuated by screams. The camera pulls back to reveal that he is at the end of a long hallway. As he screams, a series of quick edits pulls the viewer closer and closer to him, revealing the inside of his mouth. In the scene that follows, the camera pans across a kitchen interior, settling at last on the sink. A man comes in, washes some dishes and exits, leaving the tap running water. A still photo showing the chair at the end of the hallway is thrown into a body of water, then washed away by the waves created by an off-camera boat.

"Truth Through Mass Individuation" -- A body of water, which is traversed in the distance by a bridge for automobiles, is seen in various stages. The shoreline changes; day turns to night and then back to day again. A figure who has faded into the landscape through all of this leaps from a rock into the water. Pigeons grazing on a city street are interrupted by a man who drops a cymbal, causing them to scatter. A man walks through a street with a rifle, stopping to fire it into the air. A figure seated in a darkened parking lot gets up and walks away, revealing an occupied baseball stadium in the background.



Coproducer:
Television Laboratory, WNET

Funder:
New York State Council on the Arts





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