Incidence of Catastrophe

1987-88, 43:51 min, color, sound

While extending the dialogue between semantics and consciousness that Hill has advanced since the late 1970s, Incidence of Catastrophe reaches beyond these parameters in depicting the synesthesia of reading and the dreamwork of the text. Inspired by Maurice Blanchot's novel Thomas the Obscure and the experience of observing his child acquiring speech, Hill's heuristic tour de force grounds the viewer in the activity of becoming the text through a succession of evocative scenarios and motifs that detail a gradual descent into language and its labyrinth of representational configurations. Literacy is seen as soul-sickness; the final image of a drowned man before a wall of words expresses the abjection of the body in Western society's semantic culture. Hill's "writing" on Blanchot is so relentlessly revelatory, each layer of amplification so remarkably well positioned, that it inspires hopes of vital new relationships between artistic and critical practices in literature and video.

Camera/Lighting: Rex Barker. Writer/Director/Editor: Gary Hill. With: Ramone Cyrus Mclane, Lou Hetler, George Catalano, Joy Cohen, Diane Wagner, Phyllis Bannister, Ed Boyd, Mar'ia Lodahl.