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Bill Viola’s The Passions, at the National Gallery to 06-NOV-05

By johnboy - 2 August 2005 4

The National Gallery has something quite extra-ordinary at the moment in the form of “The Passions” a collection of the work of Bill Viola. Who is Bill Viola I hear you cry? As always, the Wikipedia is your friend.

So the short story is that if you want to take in something very beautiful, very moving, and a little disturbing then get thee to the Gallery.

The Gallery’s website has a useful introduction to the work on display.

Basically we’re talking about video screens (anyone really care if it’s an LCD or rear-projection?) running loops of people doing not much.

But the exact details of the not much warrant close observation, sometimes a tear will roll down a face, as in “Dolarosa”

Dolarosa - Bill Viola

in “Observance” a line of people, like mourners at a coffin, approach the camera, stare into it for a moment and depart.

In the case of “Emergence” the audience becomes totally engrossed with a single burning issue, “are we actually going to see his dick”, followed by “my goodness what a tiny dick, that water must have been REALLY cold”

Emergence - Bill Viola

I imagine there are other issues being pursued by the work, but sadly the dick really takes control, tiny though it may be.

You can spend a lot of time staring at these things, in some cases waiting for something to happen, wondering if anything is going to happen. In some of them nothing happens at all, the artists little joke on us all.

Once you’ve got a solid feel for the form of this work you get thrust into the pièce de résistance, ‘Five Angels for the Millennium’

Five Angels of the Millenium - Bill Viola

When we walked in there were five screens filling the walls of a rather large room, lots of water sounds, and images of light reflecting off dark water in various hues.

Then the surround sound kicked in as angels either plunged into or rose from the water, the sound kicking my head around as I realised things were going on behind me. It’s a very hypnotic space to be in, and more than a little creepy.

Anyway I recommend it to you all, but I’d say it’s not a great exhibition for small kids (you won’t appreciate it without some patience and quiet time)

What’s Your opinion?


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4 Responses to
Bill Viola’s The Passions, at the National Gallery to 06-NOV-05
b2 7:17 pm 02 Aug 05

I went to a speech by the artist on saturday, which was very interesting. He talked about how he created the works and what he was thinking about etc.
He also said how in one work (not on show) it had been slowed down 81 times, to give an indication of how much slower the works are.
In any case this is a very good exhibition. In fact the gallery seems to have a few good ones on at the moment, with the sculpture prize and maragaret michaelis (photography).

Good time to visit!!

LurkerGal 4:26 pm 02 Aug 05

Indeed! You are more attractive to me already JB!

johnboy 4:20 pm 02 Aug 05

There are “Johnboy’s in the closet” rumours?

Cool! Keep it up, will definitely help with the ladies!

simto 4:03 pm 02 Aug 05

You do realise your discussion of the dick in “Emergence” is only going to lend ammunition to the “Johnboy’s in the closet” rumours, right?

Or is this the current plan – to tempt the ladies with a “convert me, convert me” stance?

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