10 min 2 channel video installation, stereo sound, 1983
Hymn is a two monitor installation from 1983. On one screen, three figures pray feverishly in a looped sequence. The other plays the momentous parting of the waters scene from Cecil B DeMille’s iconic film The Ten Commandments. The later footage is almost unrecognizable, offered as a flickering image that washes light over the viewer in hypnotic waves. If you received a similarly degraded image you’d no doubt check you television reception. Yet in the context of the installation, there is something incredibly moving about a scene of such magnitude being rendered in such an intensely grainy and faltering aesthetic. The strangeness of the image is heightened further by its pairing with the gesturing devotees.
Dominique Angeloro, Sydney Morning Herald, 2004
Two works by video artist John Gillies seem to instance the above: I Need You and Hymn. The former develops the idea of a movement into the screen, creating a depth within the surface, while the latter extends and repeats the momentary gestures of three bodies to simulate, in the artist’s words, the experience of breathing. Through the techniques of editing, mixing and repetition, the content of Hymn, (which is the image of three gesturing bodies), comes to represent a sort of universal respiration, the corporeality of the imaged bodies being eclipsed by the idea of corporeality's essence - breath, that which animates the body, which unites spirit with matter, which gives life. Rather than projecting the body as object to be viewed - an object of sensory and imaginary arousal, Hymn unfolds the embodiment of an idea which is also a moment/movement of ideation, realised less through the sensory, than through the pneumatic.
Frances Dyson, Scan+ 1, 1988