Air Raid, 1974

NTSC, sound, black and white

Air Raid points to a historical event without ever showing or naming it. The work sketches two aspects of the subject, treating them in parallel, with the image showing the daily life of a young American, while the sound introduces war through sound effects.
Life style is alluded to in sequences in black and white and close-ups on leisure articles (record player, car and television) and in calm, ordinary scenes of everyday life (a board game, a meal and mowing the lawn). The sequences are short. The first ones are silent, and appear for too short a time to enable identification of the subject. The sequences succeed each other rapidly, separated by a grey screen. An idea of the death of the ephemeral is expressed through the poetic metaphor of the butterfly and by the sudden end of the tape, which cuts off in the middle of the last sentence at the words "fear is".
Sound effects of gunfire and sirens are heard in parallel with the representation of everyday life. The meaning of this use of context only becomes apparent when the date the work was created is recognised as an index and historic landmark. In fact, 1974 was the year after the withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam, marking the end of the unpopular war. Then, the title Air Raid takes on its full significance and the way the spectator views the different signs in the tape refers to this realisation and reinforces it. Thus the jerky way of showing sequences, structured by rapid appearance and disappearance, finally plunging into the depths of the grey screen, refers to the unavoidable, the ephemeral and t he images that the air raid of the title evokes.Gary Hill treats this subject without emotion. He constructs the work by giving distinct themes, to the image on one hand, and to the scattering of signs on the other. In this way he separates the American life-style from the war, as was indeed the case with this conflict which was happening outside the country.

Thérèse Beyler