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New Television Workshop; Reverse Television

Part of New Television Workshop.


Original date 12/12/83 Bill Viola: Reverse Television

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New Television Workshop
Reverse Television
Series Description

The New Television Workshop originated at WGBH in 1974 to support the creation and development of experimental video art. This experimental programming included dance, drama, music, performance and visual arts on video and film. As early as 1968, WGBH was committed to the development of video art through residency programs, with artists such as Nam June Paik. Many of these early works (pre-1974) were broadcast both locally and nationally. Fred Barzyk, a WGBH producer and director, was the Workshop's Executive Director from 1974 to 1982. Susan Dowling was Executive Director from 1982 to 1993. In 1993 the Workshop ceased production at WGBH. Major broadcast series created by the Workshop included "Artist's Showcase," "Frames of Reference," "Dance for Camera," "Poetry Breaks," and "New Television." Individual works were created for "Visions," a series produced by WNET (New York), and "Alive From Off Center," a series produced by KTCA (St. Paul - Minneapolis). The Contemporary Art Television (CAT) Fund was co-founded by the Workshop and Boston's Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA) in the 1980's, to commission works by video artists. Series release date: 1974

Program Description

“Reverse Television” was created in the mid-1980's by video artist Bill Viola. The 30-second portraits were about portraiture and the idea of a person staring at the viewer (as the viewer stares at the TV screen). Conceived of as a "micro-series," the work features 42 30-second portraits of television viewers in their living rooms. The portraits appear very formally composed, with attention paid to composition, lighting, and color. The viewers sit quietly, only occasionally making a slight shift in position. No external sound score has been added, so that the only sounds heard are sync sounds that have been heightened. These sounds include viewers’ clothing when they move, swallowing, and background noises, such as traffic outside the viewer's home or a dog barking in the distance.

Asset Type

Broadcast program

Media Type


Experimental films
Television viewers
Video art
Film and Television
Viola, Bill, 1951- ()
Susan Dowling (Producer)
Dowling, Susan (Series Producer)
Chicago: “New Television Workshop; Reverse Television,” 08/12/1997, GBH Archives, accessed April 20, 2024,
MLA: “New Television Workshop; Reverse Television.” 08/12/1997. GBH Archives. Web. April 20, 2024. <>.
APA: New Television Workshop; Reverse Television. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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