Bill Viola, American, born 1951. Reverse Television–Portraits of Viewers (Compilation Tape), 1984. 15 minutes. Color, sound. Courtesy of Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York

Reverse Television–Portraits of Viewers (Compilation Tape)

January 1, 2022 - January 31, 2022

Media Arts Gallery

Bill Viola inverts the position and gaze of the television viewer in a series of 44 portraits of individuals sitting at home in their living rooms, staring silently at the static camera as though it were a TV set. Produced specifically for broadcast television, the original one-minute segments of over 40 subjects from the Boston area were intended as unannounced inserts during the daily programming schedule. Viola essentially subverts the time and space of broadcast television, as the extended duration of these real-time portraits interrupts the spatial and temporal field of TV scheduling, like edits. Writes Viola, “Two classical poses emerge in this work­—the formal photographic portrait and the posture of the private television viewer at home. The work momentarily inverts the classical TV/viewer relationship, and television becomes a medium of reverse portraiture.”