Zachęta – National Gallery of Art

Bill Viola, <strong>Observance</strong>, 2002, photo Kira Perov

May 11, 2007

May 12-July 1 2007

Zacheta National Gallery of Art
Pl. Malachowskiego 3
00-916 Warsaw, Poland
phone ( 48 22) 827 58 54

The Bill Viola exhibition in Zacheta is the first individual presentation in Poland of the work of this outstanding artist and pioneer in video art who has played a major role in the recognition of video as a new form of artistic expression and in the development of this medium.

Over the course of the over 35 years of his work, Viola has created many groundbreaking films and video-installations that engage the viewer on many levels: intellectual, emotional and perceptual. Through the visualisation of images, contents and states which symbolise a humans condition and place in the world, Violas work addresses the fundamental questions of human existence. The artist takes his inspiration from travel, poetry and philosophy, traditional art, Christian mysticism, Islamic Sufism and Zen Buddhism, and also deep personal experiences. In Violas works, individual content is linked with group and historical memory, psychic experiences with physical encounters, and direct perceptual experiences with those that are the product of the imagination. The artist records reality and confronts it with the images of the subconscious, in which knowledge is interweaved with memory and emotions. In this process, the camera comes to play the role of the minds eye: it enables the unveiling of different aspects of reality (internal and external), the anticipation of events or their recalling from memory, and also the creation of the world and the giving back to us of that which has been lost. Viola believes that the camera is not just an instrument of perception, but also a discursive instrument and that the images recorded on it confront us with the fundamental questions of life, change and momentary stability in the constant cycles of changes. The works of Viola research the properties of video, its temporal, visual and sound dimensions, in order to metaphorically show characteristics of perception and apprehension.

At the exhibition, we present 9 works, including The Crossing (1996), The Raft (2004) and Ascension (2000), works that make reference to the symbolism of the elements. Particular significance is attributed to water, the symbol that recurs most frequently in the artists works, and which conveys connotations of changes, birth and death, but also of the forces of nature, and spiritual cleansing. The work The Crossing is composed of two simultaneous projections, showing, on the one side a man consumed by fire, while on the other he is consumed by water. The video makes reference to the destructive action of the elements, while also indicating their cathartic power. In Ascension we see a figure falling into deep water. This is a metaphor for the passage of the body into the sphere of infinity, a return to a primeval state of formlessness and unconsciousness. The work The Raft, on the other hand, relates to a catastrophic aspect of water – a flood. In it we observe how a group of people, who look as though they are waiting perhaps for a metro, are suddenly struck by a deluge of water and how they pick themselves up after such an attack by an element. Being plunged into water signifies the fall and the disruption of the consciousness produced by shock, after which takes place a rebirth, a spiritual regeneration as though after a symbolic christening. We also present a work which marks a turning-point in Violas work: The Greeting (1995), inspired by Jacopo Pontormos painting The Visitation (15281529). It is one of the artists first works to take up the question of the depiction of emotions in relation to the traditions of painting. Viola went on to develop this theme further in later years, in particular through his research into the portrayal of emotional states in Renaissance and Middle Ages painting at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles in 1998. At the same time, he has explored the possibilities of the visual and thematic translation of the layers of painting into the language of video. A result of these explorations is the cycle of works The Passions, which he began in 1999. At the exhibition in Zacheta, we present the following works from this cycle: Silent Mountain (2001), Surrender (2001), The Locked Garden (2000), The Quintet of the Astonished (2000) and Observance (2002). These works focus on the research into and presentation of emotional states, expressed through the language of the body and in facial expressions, modelled amongst others on religious painting from the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. In these works use is made of the formal conventions of painting and the plasma and LCD screens are arranged in traditional diptych or triptych forms. In them, short scenes, arranged and recorded by the artist and played by actors and which last just a few seconds, are slowed down so that the projection is extended in time, deforming the image and undermining the impression of the illusion and linear quality of narrative. The slowing of the image concentrates attention on the waves of powerful emotion that rise and fall in the characters. The effect of a pausing of time, the neutral background to the scenes in combination with the contemporary outfits of the actors, and the playing of scenes drawn from iconography are all factors in giving Violas works a universal character. Making use of the traditions of traditional art, he draws from them their spiritual vales, cultural archetypes and cosmological imagination and communicates them by translating them into contemporary images and experiences. Viola brings us closer to the essence of the medium, by bringing us closer to the complex realms of our existence, and since the medium is a creation in time, these works become a reflection of the impermanence of human existence.

Bill Violas works have been shown amongst others at: the 49th Biennale in Venice; in the Museum of Modern Art; Whitney Museum of American Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York); Guggenheim Museum (New York, Berlin, Bilbao); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles); Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; Moderna Museet (Stockholm); Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), National Gallery, Tate Modern (London); Mori Art Museum (Tokyo), Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Tel Aviv Museum of Art.
Zacheta National Gallery of Art
Director Agnieszka Morawinska Curator Maria Brewinska Assistant Curator Joanna Sokolowska Execution Anna Muszynska Press Spokesman: Olga Gawerska,
Bill Viola Studio
Executive Director Kira Perov Studio Director Bettina Jablonski Administration Marie Corboy Curatorial Assistant Gene Zazzaro
Special thanks are extended to James Cohan of the James Cohan Gallery, New York.

The exhibition in Zacheta will be accompanied by a 160 page, richly illustrated catalogue, with texts by: Maria Brewinska, Benjamin Cope, Minoru Hatanaki and Jaroslaw Lubiak.

The exhibition supported by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland.

Exhibition organized under the honorary patronage of His Excellency Victor Ashe, Ambassador of the United States in Poland.

Exhibition Patron Efekt Doradztwo finansowe

sponsor of the exhibition Intercontinental sponsors of the gallery: Epson, Netia sponsor of the opening ceremony: A.Blikle, Freixenet patron of the children’s program Bank Zachodni WBK media patronage: Gazeta Wyborcza, Polityka, Telewizja Polska, Tok FM, The Warsaw Voice,, ams, EMPiK

Zachęta – National Gallery of Art
May 11, 2007

Thank you for your RSVP.

Zachęta – National Gallery of Art will be in touch.

I have read e-flux’s privacy policy and agree that e-flux may send me announcements to the email address entered above and that my data will be processed for this purpose in accordance with e-flux’s privacy policy*

Thank you for subscribing to e-flux

Feel free to subscribe to additional content from the e-flux platform.