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The Bill Viola retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris (a review)

The Bill Viola retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris (a review)

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Published by Joseph Nechvatal
The Bill Viola retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris (a review)
The Bill Viola retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris (a review)

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Published by: Joseph Nechvatal on Mar 13, 2014
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Bill Viola at the Grand Palais, Paris5 March 2014 to 21 July 2014
 by Joseph Nechvatal(all photos by the author) published 3/13/2014 as 
Bill Viola
s Moving Void
Free-floating habits are often hard to abandon. The term “video” as a definable medium -and thus “video art” - is now essentially archaic, due to convergence of all of the capturetechnologies into postmedia computer manipulated moving image/sound files, that andthe development of digital image display technologies. Consequently rendering thedistinctions between previously distinct media, such as “video”, “video tape” and “film”increasingly obsolete and incoherent.Still, during early spring-like days in Paris, Bill Viola was presented to the city of lightsas our “most celebrated exponent of video art,” a position now largely irrelevant.Evidently, a video camera recording onto videotape is no longer a prerequisite for the production of moving sound images that circulate under the name of video art.Regardless, Viola’s moving (barely) digital art show (his first retrospective in France, andcurated by Jérôme Neutres and Kira Perov) brought back to mind the pleasures of nourishing spring showers. Yes, warm March showers, along with the resonances of thedistinguished viola player Yehudi Menuhin, came to mind there, in that Menuhin, likeViola, too makes art that coolly nourishes.
Viola’s work is refreshingly non-ironic, even earnest I would say, and this earnestness isthe dominant connecting flow of feeling between the works that make up the entire fortyyears of his career. This long career is represented in the exhibition by selecting pieces,of course, and his wife and studio director, Kira Perov, strung together works that cover the entire span; from “The Reflecting Pool” (1977-79) to “The Dreamers” (2013). Thisstring of work includes “Chott El Djerid : A Portrait in Light and Heat” (1979) that wasshot in a vast dry salt lake in the Tunisian Sahara desert, the room-sized installation “TheSleep of Reason” (1988), a video sculpture “Heaven and Earth” (1992), the Op Art-likeinstallation “The Veiling” (1995), a subtle audio only piece “Presence” (1995), the breathholding “Nine Attempts to Achieve Immortality” (1996) “The Quintet of theAstonished” (2000), a somber “Four Hands” (2001), a grandiose “Going Forth By Day”(2002), the monkish “Catherine's Room” (2001), the beautiful “Three Women” (2008)and the again desert set “The Encounter” (2012).
“The Quintet of the Astonished” (2000)“Four Hands” (2001) (detail)

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