Saturday, May 5, 2007

Bill Viola

Yesterday I went to James Cohan Gallery to see works from the Tristan Project by Bill Viola. And he did it again. The imagery is really beautiful. Again he shows extremely slowed down images people diving / falling into water. Amazing to see. But it has become a bit of a trick, not very surprising. I remember being blown away when I first saw Bill Viola's "Five Angels for the Millenium" in the Gasometer, Oberhausen, Germany. In that impressive building the huge screens and great sound installation made for quite an experience.

There was another work: Passage Into Night (2005). Distorted by the heat of the desert a woman walks towards the camera. It is filmed with an extremely long lens, so even though she is walking a quite a pace, she does not seem to get closer. But she does, all the way till her body fills the screen. Not just any part of the body, but her pelvis. Hence "passage" I guess. Sitting there with ten people watching this video in which hardly anything happens: intriguing. On the galleries website I see that the full length of the piece is a little over 50 minutes, so I guess I only saw a small portion. I really like the high image quality of his work but this one seems to have an interlacing problem, especially distracting on the feet, as if it is just cheaply slowed down video. And the viewing conditions are not optimal. It is exhibited in the front room of the gallery, the door being blocked only by some white fabric, letting quite a bit of light through. The walking lady is dressed in black, so what I ended up seeing was: my silhouette reflected. Don't think it was the artists intention to draw that much attention to my ears...

I do wonder if we all would have stayed and watch the slow moving video had we not just seen those underwater videos. In those, there is this exhilarating moment when the body or bodies break the surface. Maybe we were all waiting for something like that happening in this video. That nothing happens in the end is actually not a disappointment.

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