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Video installation: LaserDisc transferred to DVD (colour, silent), wooden chair and table, plastic and steel
Dimensions: 173 x 654 x 236 cm
Learning Curve is a wooden table with an industrial appearance, supported by metal legs, in the shape of an isosceles triangle. On the shortest side there is an elongated, slightly concave screen. Onto it, the apparently endless moving image of a wave at the moment it breaks is projected. In the opposite corner, in a hollow in the regular form of the table, is a chair where the spectator can sit. In his teens, when he lived on the sunny coasts of California, Hill was a surfer. As he himself has said, a surfer's aim is to get inside the half closed space formed by the wave, which they call the "tube". Just to do that, they spend hours in the water. From that youthful experience, Hill proposes a reflection on learning. The title, Learning Curve, refers to a common educational term: the graph that shows the degree of ease with which a person can acquire an item of knowledge or assimilate a skill. There is a direct relation with Heidegger's ideas on experience, when he says that things are much closer to us than sensations. According to him, we hear the door close, but we never hear acoustic sensations or even mere sounds. To hear a naked sound we have to listen to things without the objects, or "listen abstractly." Hill obliges the spectator to sit in the chair. He thus exposes him to a similar situation to that of the student in the classroom and subjects him to a specific narrative in which time passes more slowly. Watching the repetitive image of the video becomes a simulation of learning processes, of monotonous reiteration of concepts to achieve their assimilation. Faced with this constant reiteration, the spectator can only do what Heidegger suggests: abstract himself and search for an unexpected mental path. In that way Learning Curve raises a question about a person's ability to read and write himself. Similar thoughts are to be found in Remarks on Color. In this video projection we see an eight-year-old girl reading aloud from the book of the same title by Ludwig Wittgenstein. For the forty-five minutes the scene lasts, she never once looks at the camera. Her eyes are fixed on the difficult text, as she attempts to pronounce the writer' complex words correctly. The act of reading a text aloud, something a little girl often does, becomes something different here. A tension is set up between the image of the little girl in the projection and the contents of the book she is holding in her hands. We know that she cannot understand what she is reading, which is also why she would be unlikely to repeat it in the same way in a second reading. That random character is one of the aspects that most interests Hill. As is the case with actors on stage and the little girl in this video, there are no two situations in life that repeat themselves in exactly the same way. With this work, he is referring once again to the complex mechanisms of experience and its assimilation for learning.
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