Red Tape -- Collected Works

1975, 30 min, color, sound
1975, 2:46 min, color, sound
1975, 5:19 min, color, sound
1975, 8:51 min, color, sound
1975, 4:35 min, color, sound
1975, 7:15 min, color, sound

Red Tape is the first of several collections of short pieces that function thematically as larger "meta-works." In each of these performative, structuralist exercises, a specific function of perception or representation — as articulated through video technology — becomes a metaphor for a perspective of the self. Here, Viola establishes themes that recur throughout his work, including cycles of light and dark and the metaphorical restructuring of the passing of time. Writes Viola, "A single figure appears in all the works as either the instigator or recipient of various actions performed on or initiated by nature, culminating in a ritualized cycle of death and renewal."

Playing Soul Music to My Freckles is a minimalist performance in which a bare loudspeaker, playing an Aretha Franklin song, is seen on the artist's exposed back. Viola describes A Non-Dairy Creamer as "the eradication of the individual by self-consumption." The artist's face, visible only as a reflected image on the surface of a cup of black coffee, slowly disappears as he consumes the coffee.

The title of The Semi-Circular Canals refers to the portion of the human ear that regulates balance. Viola constructed a platform on which he and the recording equipment counterbalanced one another, while freely suspended from a large tree. The artist appears to be sitting calmly at the center of the universe as the earth rotates. He writes, "The tape was inspired by NASA films and develops references to cosmological cycles, with the individual at the rotational center of their universe." In A Million Other Things (2), changes in light and sound on the edge of a pond during an eight-hour period from day to night are composed in rhythmic variations resembling music. When the sun sets, an individual in the landscape remains the sole visible object, illuminated by a single electric lamp.

Return is a methodical construction of the approach of an individual towards an unseen goal, which assumes metaphorical significance. Viola moves toward the camera/viewer, pausing every few steps to ring a bell, at which point he is momentarily thrust back to his starting place, and then advanced again. Finally reaching his destination, he is taken through all of the previous stages in a single instant and returned to the source of his journey.

Technical Assistance: Bobby Bielecki. Produced in association with ZBS Media, Inc. and Inter-Media Art Center, Inc.


SCREENING REQUIREMENTS for museum or gallery presentation: The video should be presented as cinema. The screening should take place in an isolated dark room with seating for the audience (ie. not be an open "walk through" gallery.) If available, a normal museum theater is best. As with film, it should be shown according to a printed schedule and not on an automatically repeating loop. Quality presentations less frequently to larger groups are preferable to continuous screenings throughout the day. A large screen monitor may be used (26, 30, or 35 inch) for groups up to about 60 (varies with floor plan and seating arrangement). For very large groups or in a large space, a video projector with a flat screen (high gain) may be used. Audio must be monitored through a separate stereo sound system (amplifier and 2 speakers). The built-in speakers in the video monitor must not be used. Please contact EAI distribution ( if you have any questions.