Bill Viola Exhibition At The Palazzo delle Esposizioni
Internationally recognised as one of today’s most important living artists, Bill Viola has played a key role in consecrating video art as the most vibrant art form within the contemporary art world and has contributed significantly to the development of this genre, both in terms of technology and content. On exhibition at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome.
The representation of complex emotional states, together with a bundle of timelessly unanswered dilemmas such as mortality, love, sensitivity and conscience, have been the cornerstone of Viola’s art since its beginnings. His compositions convey with clarity and startling effectiveness the invisible dimension of feeling. The powerful attraction his films and video installations exercise on the public, regardless of background or trend, can be ascribed to the fact that the individual is able to recognise him or herself in these creations: Viola confronts us with emotional states with which we are familiar in our everyday lives.
Bill Viola uses video to explore the phenomenon of perception through the senses, as a channel towards self-knowledge. His work dwells on the universal experiences of humankind – birth, death, the path towards conscience or knowledge –, combining both western and eastern tradition as well as diverse spiritual traditions such as Zen Buddism, Islamic Sufism and Christian mysticism.
Director Peter Sellars, with whom Viola collaborated on a production of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, defines his work as being framed pictures in movement; precious objects that are both windows into another reality and meticulously-described surfaces with their own compositional balance – just like paintings.
For over thirty-five years now Bill Viola has been creating videos, video installations, sound environments and video and electronic music performances. His installations are spaces designed to completely immerse the visitor into the image and sound. The innovative technology Viola uses in these works stands out for its precision and utter simplicity.
But the real turning point in Viola’s career came early in 1995 with The Greeting, presented at the Venice Biennale later that year. An open quotation of Pontormo’s The Visitation, where a pregnant Virgin Mary is depicted with St Elisabeth and two elderly figures stare hypnotically at the spectator, this work inaugurated a series of pieces that will be featured in the exhibition. The filmed scene, shot in 35 mm at a speed of 300 frames per second – over 12 times the 24 frame-per-second average norm of films shown in movie theatres –, is barely forty seconds long. This is slowed to an overall showing time of ten minutes, thus enabling the spectator to appreciate the expression of the faces in their smallest changing details, dwelling on sensations and feelings that it would be impossible to notice either in film or reality.
His works are currently part of some of the world’s most prestigious museum and gallery collections. In 2001, after being shown at the Venice Biennale, his Quintet of Remembrance entered the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Despite never having expressed an interest in video art before, for a long time the Met exhibited this work alongside its collection of great masters to highlight Viola’s debt to late-Medieval and Renaissance artists such as Giotto, Mantegna and Signorelli, as well as Dürer, Bosch, Titian, Caravaggio and Goya, with ‘forays’ into the work of 19th century painters such as Friedrich.