These 131 video monitors stacked in a grid present simultaneous, continuous footage of the German artist during the last year of his life. In this filmed diary-project that Dieter Roth executed while convalescing in Reykjavik and Basel, we see him not only working in his studio but also while he sleeps, bathes, and uses the bathroom. It is nearly impossible to pay attention to only one video without becoming distracted by an unexpected sound or movement coming from one of the many other screens. Each monitor broadcasts a different point in the artist's daily routine, while the gridlike arrangement of monitors reinforces a sense of order and chronology.
Gallery label from 2006.
These 128 video monitors present continuous footage, run simultaneously, of the artist during the last year of his life. Roth recorded Solo Scenes in Reykjavik and Basel, Switzerland, while recovering from alcoholism; we see him working in his studio, sleeping, bathing, and using the bathroom—everyday activities that suggest the isolation, loneliness, and tedium of everyday living. The stacked arrangement of monitors across three shelves enforces a sense of order as each scene unfolds in sequence, from the left shelf to the middle to the right, and from top left to bottom right.
Gallery label from Contemporary Galleries: 1980-Now, November 17, 2011-February 17, 2014.
Each screen in Solo Scenes presents different continuous footage of the artist going about his daily routine during a period of convalescence after a severe illness. The monitors suggest a series of windows into Roth's life, inside and outside his studios. Solo Scenes not only depicts the artist working but also shows him sleeping, bathing, and using the bathroom. It is nearly impossible for the viewer to watch a single video without becoming distracted by an unexpected sound or movement coming from one of the many other monitors, but the gridded arrangement reinforces a sense of order and chronology.
This work is the culmination of a series of written, film, and video diaries that Roth began in the early 1980s, including Diary, which he made for the 1982 Venice Biennale. Composed of Super 8 films and written notes, Diary records six months of Roth's life—images of him engaged in artmaking and restless, peripatetic activity. Roth died shortly after the period shown in Solo Scenes, unexpectedly making this work a self–portrait of a dying artist.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, p. 173.