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 In the guise of thought, Bill Hart In the guise of thought, Bill Hart
photo Jan Dallas
In the guise of thought, Bill Hart In the guise of thought, Bill Hart
photo Jan Dallas
 In the guise of thought, Bill Hart In the guise of thought, Bill Hart
photo Jan Dallas
MY FIRST RESPONSE TO BILL HART'S IN THE GUISE OF THOUGHT DREW FORTH THE CATCHPHRASES “AWE-INSPIRING” AND “MESMERISING." I MEANT THEM IN NO UNCERTAIN TERMS.

Hart was once a numerical modeller with the CSIRO; he changed careers in 1993, becoming an academic at the Tasmanian School of Art. He is one of the most genuinely gifted e-media artists operating in Tasmania. Visiting his show at CAST, you first see a warning to let your eyes adjust to extreme darkness. Eventually, by the soft light of computer-generated, abstract images floating across the large screen in the centre of the gallery, I found my way to a capacious sofa. I was instantly drawn into a visual experience of sheer beauty—seemingly random words and shapes morphing and dissolving into other ephemeral words and forms. The process is gently paced; it is interesting to pick out the cursive text as it ebbs and flows and re-forms yet again, on and on, always different.

Hart’s artist statement refers to Noam Chomsky and his linguistic universals—the idea that at base level all languages are similarly hard-wired into the brain. I remember struggling with Chomsky at university and later noted how his theories seemed to have had their day. This Hart observes; he explains that different languages have different structures and concepts. So his work is a swirling, seething mass of “language, of vague and amorphous concepts forming and rippling, struggling to form or perceive a larger meaning." And this is done visually, using quotations from related studies.

I loved the visual element: the beautiful mini-pixilations (my terminology) ever-changing in the most subtle and engaging of colours, and the soft light at the centre of the darkened gallery. I simply gave myself up to the utter pleasure of the experience, returning to the gallery at least four times, just as one might to a much-loved movie. On my third visit I realised there was a soft soundscape emanating not from the screen, but from speakers in the cathedral-like gallery space, featuring the gently murmuring voices of William Burroughs and Laurie Anderson. The work is about language and thought but I'm not sure what this dimension added.

In the Guise of Thought is an important show—as “awe-inspiring” and “mesmerising” as I initially felt. My words cannot do it justice.


Bill Hart, In the Guise of Thought, CAST Gallery, North Hobart,
March, www.billhart.id.au

RealTime issue #102 April-May 2011 pg. web

© Diana Klaosen; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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