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.


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The video should be presented as cinema. Projection in a dedicated, darkened gallery is strongly preferred. Accompanying floor plans and technical specifications regarding projection equipment is appreciated. Videos must be shown in original 4:3 aspect ratio, either using projector settings, as available, or pillarboxed with black masking.

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