Reverse Television -- Portraits of Viewers (Compilation Tape)

1984, 15 min, color, sound

Viola inverts the position and gaze of the television viewer in a series of forty-four 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 forty 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."

(Note: This compilation includes fifteen-second excerpts of the original one-minute portraits, presented in the order in which they were recorded.)

Production Assistant/Still Photographer: Kira Perov. Supervising Producer: Susan Dowling. Produced in association with the New Television Workshop at WGBH TV, Boston.


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.


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