…”Quell the clutter…” – Bill Viola

‘dissolution’, 2005 - video still -artist Bill Viola

‘dissolution’, 2005 – video still -artist Bill Viola

A still from the video artist Bill Viola is but a hint of the the real thing – which come to think of it is actually a lot like photographs – just a hint …  but I have to say in this case a hint is better than nothing.

Speaking of art as experience – My first experience with any of Viola’s work was with a small piece – (and I’m hoping my memory serves me correctly in attributing this memory to Viola) – at the Des Moines Art Center, in Iowa. I may have it all wrong and I can’t seem to find any information to confirm what I remember, but it was a little plexiglass cube with a white orb – head shaped – and just large enough for this shape to be fully immersed in water.  The entire thing was just about chest high – but low enough so you could look down on it.  Upon that cube was a projection of a man holding his breath looking back up at you – the thing is that he’s running out of air.  Peering over the cube you could see him looking back up at you – the murmuring sound gets more urgent – nearly getting to a shout underwater – but you know what happens if  you have ever tried to scream under water.

That simple gesture –  a “video sculpture” lets call it – was thrillingly disturbing – all the elements of suspense hard to leave or look away –  the unforgiving loop presents a never-ending struggle to come up for air.  I remember it still clearly being – to hear the murmurs – tiny bubbles escaping his lips… but in this case just an illusion and clearly set up to reveal itself – pull the extension cord out and the whole thing stops.

Bill Viola, Acension, 2000 video still
Bill Viola, Acension, 2000 video still

My second experience was with Ascension – a 10 minute loop from a dull rumbling blackness to startling plunge in a small dark and dimensionless room – My kids and I watched the sudden but slow fall, rise and fall of man – with all the religious allusions –  yet my experience in watching this brought on an entirely different level of understanding.  I felt their fear as they jumped and clung close to me – grasping on to me for assurance perhaps that they too might not ever fall into the water.  Somehow – my being there assured them.

Below is a clip of another work by Viola and with a little imagination…..  yet I hesitate… because the real experience of seeing a work such as this relies on the total environment to full effect – it points out to me the importance of creating the circumstance for art to exist – and the apparent shortcomings of all that is the web…

Here are some clips interviewing Viola – talking about his source of inspiration… from one of his representing galleries, the James Cohan Gallery

And a quote from an interview…

“Just by my nature I’ve always been drawn to slowing things down, really out of a desire to see things more completely, to quell the clutter and the agitated stream of stuff that’s coming at you constantly, so you can feel yourself living, thinking, breathing.” – Bill Viola – “Bill Viola’s x-ray vision,”      The Art Newspaper, June 22, 2006

Perhaps this is a cue to consider more strongly in still photography.

UPDATE:  It appears as though the work is classified as “sculpture” – according to import tax ruling… article via the Art Newspaper…  seems like a “no-brainer”…