Phill Niblock – The Movement of People Working

Phill Niblock

Extreme/Microcinema, USA, 2009, English
This is a new reprint (the first release was in 2003) of an important dvd which gathers a series of audio/visual artworks made by Phill Niblock from the early 70s to middle 80s. Niblock is a historical intermedia artist, who has been mixing film and music since the late 60s, and is an acknowledged pioneer in sound and visual experimentation. In this series he focussed on the motions involved in manual labour, using footage shot in different rural or coastal places around the world and a minimalist score he composed for the project. The contrast between the music and the movies is still able to create tension: the vivid colours and the focus on the hands, their elegant and precise gestures irresistibly attracting attention. The gestures are repetitive but with a loosely intrinsic rhythm that makes their sequences harmonic while the soundtrack is fighting for the viewer’s attention on the aural level. The gestures are never abstract, but instead very rich in textures, and their poetic is cultivated in the choice of light and colour. Soundtracking is a sophisticated art, as Niblock proved a long time ago, and his approach has been mimicked countless times by younger video artists. Watching the hands in such a variety of tasks takes us back to another era. Now our fingers mostly find their way around keyboards and all kinds of touch screens. We have probably forgotten some of the abilities cultivated over time in order to manipulate objects for specific purposes – something that this challenging video/audio combination reminds us of.