Primary, 1978

NTSC, sound, colour

Primary is a performance video in which the artist represents and breaks down the movements of the articulation of the spoken language by associating a colour with each shape adopted by the mouth when pronouncing the monosyllabic word that corresponds to it. The three words on the tape are: "Blue, red, green".
Primary was one of the first tapes to use spoken text as an element for structuring images and the work itself. The Equal Time (1979) and Black / White / Text (1980) tapes, amongst others, were also to use spoken text, but in a more complex manner.
Primary does not really analyse pronunciation; it places speech back into its context and language into a physical process. Gary Hill represents the physical properties of action and sound in the same manner in Full Circle and Soundings, and electrical energy in Electronic Linguistic.
The process in Primary is taken up again in the Primary Speaking installation and the resulting tape. The time taken to pronounce each syllable determines the staccato rate at which images unfold; the subjects of these correspo nd to the words pronounced and the abstract ideas expressed. The test is an existential search, querying, in turn, the idiomatic expressions of the language, the individual choices, identity, questioning and elements of response. These ele ments are put on an equivalent basis with the syllables according to their function in the construction of a future era.

Thérèse Beyler