If only one word could be chosen to describe the work of Bill Viola (New York, 69 years old), one that would undoubtedly fit in with his unmistakable artistic tale would be that of depth. The depth of human feelings, the unfathomable experiences of birth, death and time that delimits them, spirituality and their infinite paths … have forged over more than forty years the particular visual philosophy of the American, also expressed through the universal language of silence and the sounds of nature.
Marked by symbols such as water and light, which act as keys for the interpretation of his ideas, the work of the renowned creator, pioneer of video art, stars in an anthology at the Telefónica Foundation in Madrid: Bill Viola Invisible Mirrors (until May 17). With more than 20 works, the exhibition, which It could already be seen in La Pedrera in Barcelona, has been curated by the wife and director of the artist’s studio, Kira Perov.
Designed for the viewer to make a journey that opens and closes, like a circle, with Viola’s self-portraits, the exhibition aims to be, in the words of Perov, “the journey of his personal awakening.” “Viola’s work investigates issues such as isolation, anguish, the disintegration of the self and the fusion of illusion and reality,” said the curator on behalf of the video creator, who could not move to Madrid since she is convalescent. “In his work, the moving image magnifies his ideas about the fragility and transience of our lives.”
In a non-chronological, but conceptual order, Viola’s first videocreation shown, Incrementation, dated 1996, represents the artist himself motionless before the camera. Just breathe. And live. Next to the screen, a panel numbers – like a countdown to death – its breaths. 84.045, 84.046, 84.047. That rhythm, constant but at times intermittent, organic and at the same time sifted by the asepsis of technology, will define the step with which to walk along a route that goes back to the seventies with pieces like The reflecting pool, video where the artist plays with the expressive possibilities of the edition to try to escape the linearity of time.
In proposals such as Catherine’s Room (2001), where several screens follow one another in which a woman crosses the four seasons of the year during her day and night from day to day, many of the existential questions that the video artist has tried to unravel throughout her career are condensed. “It is the cycle of transformations: a metaphor for the continuity of life,” said Kerov, who delivered a literal quote from Viola: “The self is an ocean without a shore. Looking at it has no beginning or end, neither in this world nor in the next. ”
Many times with his own body as a film material, the American’s videos delve into the unknown grotto of the human soul inspired both by the geniuses of art history – the immense debt of his images with painting is undeniable – as in the thinkers of the spirituality of both East and West. In the context of contemporary times, the use of technology also allows you to create spectacular special effects with which to convey these concepts. “When we look at something for a long time, its essence becomes visible,” said Kerov, a statement that fits perfectly with the use of the super slow motion in several of the artist’s works, a resource that allows him to explore how the temporal experience It affects perception.
Among the most recent works of the author – who in 2017 starred in a great retrospective in the Guggenheim of Bilbao, and which has also recently exhibited in other Spanish cities such as Basin– pieces like Martyrs (2014), a series of four videos that were created as commissioned by St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. In them, Viola faces the idea of the need to accept mortality itself through the representation of the four elements, used as metaphors of concepts such as action, strength, perseverance, resistance and sacrifice. “Today’s artist represents invisible things,” Kerov added, citing her husband again. “Understanding the gift of art can put us in touch with the internal reasons why we want to do this work.”