Gone But Not Forgotten
- Jan 6, 2003
- Reaction score
The artist Susan Hiller made a work connected with the phenomena
Belshazzar's Feast/The Writing on your Wall (1983/4) was the first video installation to be acquired by Tate, and its initial exhibition created an unusual informality in the Duveen Galleries, with audiences seated on the floor. The video programme which is the core of this work was broadcast all over Britain by Channel 4 in 1986, and the installation itself simulates a live transmission seen on a television set in a cozy living room.
]Hiller's Belshazzar's Feast is an investigation of the phenomenon of reverie sometimes produced by television viewing. Her video programme creates effects that enable viewers to enter a zone of liminality, and in this sense the work is a demonstration of the power of imagination which we all have. Like the prophet Daniel, who could interpret but not read the mysterious writing on Belshazzar's wall, viewers glean hints of revelation from the segmented soundtrack. The artist whispers newspaper reports of alien beings seen on television screens after closedown, while interspersed with this she sings in an improvisational style, and a child describes from memory the Bible story of Belshazzar's feast as depicted in Rembrandt's painting in the National Gallery. The visuals are a seductive stream of manipulated images of fire, referring to Marshall McLuhan's suggestion that the television set has replaced the hearth as the focus of the home. The shifting colours and moving shapes of Hiller's imagery create an almost-hypnotic effect, stimulating viewers to experience their own ability to generate images which are projected onto the electronic flames