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Dennis Oppenheim (1938-2011)
Four-channel 16mm film installaion, black-and-white, sound, looped, transferred to video
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Partial gift of the artist and partial purchase, with funds from the Film and Video Committee
Rights and Reproductions Information
© artist or artist’s estate
Echo comprises four black-and-white film loops that are projected simultaneously onto the four walls of an exhibition space. In each loop, Dennis Oppenheim uses his body as both a material and a tool, slapping the gallery walls with his hand in a paring down of the language of mark-making to its most simple form: the surface of the artist’s body meeting the surface of the artwork’s support. Like many artists of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Oppenheim created works that sought to transcend the gallery walls, which seemed to symbolize physical and psychological restriction. In Echo, he used the body’s most elemental force—its energy—to call attention to the boundaries of the gallery space. These boundaries are further emphasized by the soundtrack of four loud echoes ricocheting around the room. The reverberations form a trace of Oppenheim's slapping movements, articulating the shape of the gallery in aural terms and asserting a desire to burst through its physical limits—a goal that was central to many of the artist’s early projects in Body art, Earth art, performance, and film.