New York

Nancy Holt

The Clocktower

Usually one considers a room’s space in terms of its interior dimensions. With her video piece at the Clocktower, Nancy Holt locates one in the enclosed space, 14 floors above Broadway, through its outside view. High above one in the room, a porthole cut out of white paper filters the light through the window on each of the four sides. Underneath, the wall is labeled with its direction—N, S, E or W. In the center of the room, a solid white box with a monitor imbedded in each side provides an inside equivalent for the exterior shell. Four videotapes, one for each direction, play sequentially on the video screens. In each an oval of light, corresponding to the portholes above, progresses across the darkened screen revealing the outside view fragment by fragment in a slow-motion scanning process. A blinder with a circle cut out was moved at regular intervals in front of the lens of a stationary camera to create this effect. After the disc has completed its journey across the entire screen, the blinder is removed and one sees the total picture. As one watches the segmented unveiling of the cityscape, one can compare one’s observations with the speculations of two art personalities on an accompanying sound track. Seeing is revealed as an interpretative process, a kind of guessing game in which one tries to logically structure the perceptual field through a coupling of conjecture with fragmentary visual clues. Using the camera as an eye, Holt restricts the focus and regulates the speed of scanning to accentuate one’s perceptual mapping out of the visual field. The recorded dialogues draw attention to one’s conceptual ordering of the visual information, to how meaning is acquired through linguistic interpretation. The possibility, or probability, of error in this process is evident with the removal of the blinder. Yet even this “total” picture is incomplete, as can be verified by actually going outside the room onto its balcony.

The dialogues themselves provide a separate interest in demonstrating how differently people react to the same task. Unlike the other couples, Lucy Lippard and Richard Serra stress their experiential situation rather than the perceptual data, progressing from Lippard’s dislike of imposing her view on others to a discussion of the video medium itself. Both Liza Béar and Klaus Kertess and Bruce Boice and Tina Girouard concentrate on description, trying to identify what they see. Ruth Kligman and Carl Andre, on the other hand, spice their observations with personal anecdotes. The limitation in all this is that it caters to an elite art audience with knowledge of who these commentators are. Yet perhaps this is only a limitation for the art audience. By getting involved with the TV star aspect, one is drawn away from the interaction of verbal and visual “locaters” which, in my opinion, defines the piece.

––Susan Heinemann