Daniel Dion, The Moment of Truth (1991)

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All facts

Photo Album

(4 photos)

SONY Video-Walkman video source footage on an 8mm video cassette, rechargeable batteries The Moment of Truth in storage with original Sony equipment. The Moment of Truth in storage with updated Casio equipment. Installation view of the exhibition (with new Casio handheld TV model)

Interviews

Daniel Dion Video

In the following video clip, Daniel Dion discusses his artistic background.
(available in French only)

Artists' Biographies

Daniel Dion

Born in 1958 in Montreal, Quebec, Daniel Dion studied Communications at Université du Québec à Montréal. Dion works with photography, video, performance and installation. He is interested in combining his passion for art, spirituality and technology with the surrounding environment. Along with Su Schnee, Dion is the co-founder of OBORO, a Montreal-based multidisciplinary exhibition and production centre for contemporary art and new media.

Dion has had solo exhibitions at the Centre international d'art contemporain de Montréal, the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa), and the Vancouver Art Gallery. He has also exhibited across Europe and Asia and has been involved in cross-cultural art exchanges in India, Cuba and Japan.

Su Schnee

Su Schnee was born in Toronto, Ontario, in 1959. She studied at the Capilano College of Art and Design in North Vancouver and the Vancouver School of Art (now known as the Emily Carr University of Art + Design). Schnee's work combines different artistic mediums, such as painting and drawing.

Schnee has exhibited her work in Canada and Europe. She has had solo shows at the Powerhouse Gallery and OBORO (Montréal), the Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao (Spain), and the Helen Pitt Gallery (Vancouver).

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Daniel Dion Video

In the following video clip, Daniel Dion discusses his artistic background.
(available in French only)Footnote 1

Artwork

Created in collaboration with Schnee, Dion's The Moment of Truth is a video installation, consisting of a portable video player mounted on a wall. Lasting 100 seconds, the video montage includes images and footage of water, swaying trees, a chaotic ramble through a forest path, a fire, and Chinese meditation balls rolling in the palm of a hand. An audio component emits sounds produced by a metronome and a synthesizer that reverberates in a crescendo manner. Throughout the video, a voice repeats the following mantra twelve times: "Seventy-seven billion human beings have lived on this planet". The video sequence ends with: "Four billion live here now".

Dion describes The Moment of Truth as an awakening to the fact that many people live on this planet and to the realization that we are all part of something greater than ourselves. He defines the experience of viewing The Moment of Truth as "a moment alone, a moment with those around us, a moment to breathe, a moment to think or perhaps to not think".Footnote 2 When exhibited, Dion's artist statement accompanies the artwork:

The Moment of Truth is the moment the human race has been living for millions of years; the moment that takes place every day of our lives; the moment that makes us conscious of the immensity whence our consciousness springs. It is both a poem and cannon, a whirling that relates the virtuality of our existence. "Seventy-seven billion human beings have lived on this planet. Four billion live here now".

The Moment of Truth's content is historically dated. The statement, "Seventy-seven billion human beings have lived on this planet. Four billion live here now," is no longer accurate. The numbers in population have greatly increased since the artwork was created in 1991. In 2008, the world population had already surpassed 6.7 billion.

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SONY Video-Walkman video source footage on an 8mm video cassette, rechargeable batteries

Daniel Dion
The Moment of Truth
1991
SONY Video-Walkman video source footage on an 8mm video cassette, rechargeable batteries
14 x 9 x 4.3 cm, length: 100 seconds
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
Purchase, Harold Lawson, Marjorie Caverhill, Harry W. Thorpe and Mona Prentice Bequests
Photo MMFA, Brian Merrett

Daniel Dion Video

Video: Daniel Dion, The Moment of Truth (1991).

Daniel Dion Video

In the following video clip, Daniel Dion describes The Moment of Truth (1991).
(available in French only)Footnote 3

Behind the Scenes

In this section, we will look "behind the scenes" to track the technological and installation modifications that The Moment of Truth has undergone since its acquisition by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) in 1999. While the video is the same, the equipment that displays the video sequence has been upgraded due to equipment failure. This change in equipment led to alterations in the installation of the artwork.

Change in Equipment & Installation

When the MMFA acquired The Moment of Truth, it was presented on a portable Sony Video Walkman. Its components included:

  • 1 Watchman Sony Video Walkman;
  • 1 8mm video cassette;
  • Rechargeable batteries.

The Sony Video Walkman played the 100 second looped sequence on an 8mm video cassette that was only 56 minutes long. In order to replay the work, a technician or gallery attendant had to rewind the cassette when it stopped. Using batteries to play the video, the Sony model was simply mounted on a wall. The batteries had to be switched and recharged throughout the exhibition.

The Sony Video Walkman is quite large by today's standards. However, in the early 1990s, the Sony Video Walkman was considered an important innovation as one of the first models of a portable video player. The technology of the Sony Video Walkman allowed users to watch a video or television while in transit. Viewers would have to make their own tapes, as pre-recorded materials were not issued on the 8mm video format at that time.

The Moment of Truth was only exhibited on the Sony Video Walkman for a short period of time due to equipment failure. In 2002, the artwork's equipment was updated to a more recent technology—the Casio handheld TV model. The materials for the current (2008) version of The Moment of Truth include:

  • 1 portable Casio Handheld TV;
  • 1 DVD (digital video disc);
  • 1 DVD player.

The Casio model is much smaller than the Sony model, measuring almost half its size (14 x 9 x 4.3 cm), and plays the video sequence on DVD instead of the original 8mm video cassette. Unlike the original Sony Video Walkman, the Casio plays video by means of an externally connected VHS or DVD player hidden behind a wall. Unlike the video cassette version, the DVD version allows for continuous play.

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The Moment of Truth in storage with original Sony equipment.

Daniel Dion's The Moment of Truth in storage with original Sony equipment.

The Moment of Truth in storage with updated Casio equipment.

Daniel Dion's The Moment of Truth in storage with updated Casio equipment.

Conservation Challenges

The original Sony screen only lasted six months after the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) acquired it. While the settings and sound functioned perfectly, the screen broke down. Numerous technicians attempted to repair it but were unsuccessful, making it necessary to replace the Sony model. Unfortunately, the Sony Video Walkman and other portable video players from that time period are no longer manufactured. As a result, the conservation techniques of both emulation (from the Sony to the Casio) and migration (from video cassette to DVD) were used in order to best replicate the original artwork.

Technological Upgrade

To Dion, the size and the technological context of the portable video player are important characteristics of The Moment of Truth. The aesthetics of the portable video player represent the time period in which it was created. Upgrading the artwork to a current technology like an iPod is not an option for Dion, since the artwork's historicity would be lost.

In 2002, Dion and the MMFA decided to upgrade to a newer version of the portable video player: a handheld Casio model. Dion believed that the newer Casio model would most accurately emulate the physical appearance of the original Sony Video Walkman. Because the Casio does not play 8mm cassettes, the video sequence was also migrated to a DVD version.

The Casio model is smaller than the Sony, and the screen quality is better. With the Sony model, a visitor would have to be directly in front of The Moment of Truth in order to properly view the image. The Casio model, on the other hand, allows for viewing from a side angle. Like the Sony model, the Casio is not made to last forever and will certainly have to be upgraded in the future. Richard Gagnier, Head of the Conservation Department at the MMFA, has suggested acquiring two functional Sony models and one Casio model to keep in storage until it becomes necessary to change the current equipment. In the fall of 2008, both models were available for purchase on ebay.

The MMFA is contemplating the possibility of emulating the original video screen that has ceased to function. This would involve embedding a new flat LCD screen into the original Sony Video Walkman casing, which would maintain the aesthetics and historicity of the monitor.

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Installation view of the exhibition (with new Casio handheld TV model)

Daniel Dion
The Moment of Truth, 1991
Installation view of the exhibition (with new Casio handheld TV model)
High Points: Selection from the Collection of Contemporary Canadian Art
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
June 9 – October 3, 2004
Photo MMFA

Footnotes

Footnote 1

Amanda Beattie, Researcher and copywriter; Émilie Boudrias, Research Assistant; Richard Gagnier, Head of the Conservation Department, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Interview with Daniel Dion. June 4, 2008.

Return to footnote 1 referrer

Footnote 2

Amanda Beattie, Researcher and copywriter; Émilie Boudrias, Research Assistant; Richard Gagnier, Head of the Conservation Department, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Interview with Daniel Dion. June 4, 2008.

Return to footnote 2 referrer

Footnote 3

Amanda Beattie, Researcher and copywriter; Émilie Boudrias, Research Assistant; Richard Gagnier, Head of the Conservation Department, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Interview with Daniel Dion. June 4, 2008.

Return to footnote 3 referrer

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