Goodbye cruel world

A new video installation elevates solo moshing to the level of art.

Katrina Wilber

Bangs, crashes and clashes occasionally blot out a human voice that’s sometimes clear and precise, but sometimes hard to understand. The noise is obvious as soon as one enters the gallery, but it’s unclear where the sounds are coming from.

Gary Hill’s “Wall Piece” is one of those things that isn’t appealing to watch, but is simultaneously hard to ignore. A video projection shows a man clad in dressy black pants and a nice white shirt with a black sports coat. A plain concrete wall provides the backdrop.

The man throws himself against the wall over and over, and every time he does, he says one word. He wears a body-microphone so every sound he makes when he speaks and hits the wall is magnified. One flash of bright light flickers each time he hits and speaks, and the time in between each flash varies with the length of the scene. Each shot is like a page in a flip book, and the rapidity of the passing of each scene adds to the power of the entire piece. A strobe light flashes on its own at intermittent intervals and further illuminates the scenes.

He doesn’t just kind of toss himself in the direction of the wall; he gets a running start before slamming his entire body against the wall. He puts a shoulder into the wall, jumps against the wall with his back to it or goes spread-eagle and turns his face to the side at the last second.

Some of the words are perfectly clear while others are indecipherable. The viewer hears most of the words, but when the words are slightly mumbled, it’s up to the viewer to fill in the blanks. The general idea behind the man’s broken speech is a feeling of doubt about existence with the wall acting as a barrier between clarity and a mental breakdown by reminding the body that it does exist.

There are few silences in the piece, but the ones present echo throughout the gallery.

A darkened hallway leads to the exhibit, and the plain white walls pull the attention toward the huge screen at the hallway’s end. It’s hard to see how the scenes are projected on the wall, but the strobe light in the center of the floor brings the viewer back to reality.

His appearance changes dramatically over the course of the video. His shirt becomes untucked; his hair is in disarray; and his voice changes depending on how hard he slams into the wall. It’s hard to watch someone intentionally inflict pain on their body, but the mental and physical anguish he puts himself through is an art in itself.

The self-inflicted violence, hyper-fast cuts and cacophonous soundtrack make “Wall Piece” a bizarre, yet thought-provoking installation.