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Video: ‘Tristan’s Ascension’ and ‘Fire Woman’ by Bill Viola at St Carthages Church, Parkville

Installation dates: 8th October – 23rd October 2010, Mon – Sat 7.30pm – 10pm

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Anybody who reads this blog regularly will know my love of the work of Bill Viola. This installation of two immersive video and sound works at St. Carthage’s church in Parkville is no exception. What an experience. I came out of the church after an aural and visual bombardment and moments of reflection so excited by the visceral experience that I phoned a friend a babbled for a few minutes about the works and how I felt. They made me feel so exhilerated and alive!

After watching the videos through first time around I made the notes below the second time of viewing – a kind of mental sketch of what I seeing and feeling. Go see!

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Stone

cold

man pure white

rumble, subterranean underwater sounds

small drops – float upwards

water flowing backwards, heavier, hovering like a sword of Damocles, heavier, heavier

Torrent, elemental, body arches, thrown around – TEMPEST! SOUND!

White light, raging waters, body levitating and ascending, Christ-like …. disappears

Water slows, stops to quietness, sound on a corrugated roof

empty stone, reflection

drips

splashes

drops of ascending water like stars twinkling in the night sky

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……………………o

….o……………………………….o

……………………..o

…………..o………………o

….o……………………o

………..o……….o……………..0

………………………o

………..o

………………………….o

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Fire         [ROAR]

dark angel, walks forward, camera changes angles

WALL of fire       ||||||||||||||||

hell, the sun, conflagration of the apocalypse

Opens arms, falls backwards into a pool of water —— CRASH – SHOCK – SOUND ASSAULTS YOU!

Disappears

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Ripples of water/fire: camera closes in, distorting fire

Sounds becomes muffled

Yellow reflections ………………..almost nuclear, atomic, abstract (like a wonderful Richter!)

————————–

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gurlging sound of water, slow ripples reflecting fire and oil, fire dying out

intense blue/black, like tadpoles in a stream or the embers of darkness

Beauty

Contemplation

feeling: of life, of place in the world, of mortality … of the ineffable.

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Many thankx to the Melbourne International Arts Festival for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. There is a poor quality U Tube video of both works that gives you an idea of their impact.

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Bill Viola
Tristan’s Ascension (The Sound of a Mountain Under a Waterfall)
2005
Video/sound installation
Performer: John Hay
Photos: Kira Perov
Courtesy Bill Viola Studio and Kaldor Public Art Projects

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“Pioneering American artist Bill Viola has been instrumental in the establishment of video as a vital form of contemporary art. For over 35 years he has created videotapes, architectural video installations, sound environments, electronic music performances, flat panel video pieces and works for television broadcast. His video installations – total environments that envelop the viewer in image and sound – employ state-of-the-art technologies and are distinguished by their precision and direct simplicity. His next major commission is the creation of two permanent altar pieces for St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

For the 2010 Melbourne Festival, in partnership with Kaldor Public Art Projects, St Carthage’s Catholic Church in Parkville is turned into a video art shrine complete with the latest technology, surround sound and enveloping operatic narrative. Shown in a continuous loop, the two works, Fire Woman and Tristan’s Ascension, combine for a 20 minute visual and aural experience that extends Viola’s lifelong engagement with the human condition into ancient themes of life, love and death.

These two immersive installations are derived from Viola’s creation for Richard Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde directed by Peter Sellars. Now separated from the opera, the stunning installations feature mythical and mystical apparitions set to their own new soundtrack, and can be experienced in all their glory in the sacred surrounds of St Carthage’s.

Bill Viola (b.1951) is internationally recognized as one of today’s leading artists. He has been instrumental in the establishment of video as a vital form of contemporary art, and in so doing has helped to greatly expand its scope in terms of technology, content, and historical reach. For over 35 years he has created videotapes, architectural video installations, sound environments, electronic music performances, flat panel video pieces, and works for television broadcast. Viola’s video installations – total environments that envelop the viewer in image and sound – employ state-of-the-art technologies and are distinguished by their precision and direct simplicity. They are shown in museums and galleries worldwide and are found in many distinguished collections. His single channel videotapes have been widely broadcast and presented cinematically, while his writings have been extensively published, and translated for international readers. Viola uses video to explore the phenomena of sense perception as an avenue to self-knowledge. His works focus on universal human experiences – birth, death, the unfolding of consciousness – and have roots in both Eastern and Western art as well as spiritual traditions, including Zen Buddhism, Islamic Sufism, and Christian mysticism. Using the inner language of subjective thoughts and collective memories, his videos communicate to a wide audience, allowing viewers to experience the work directly, and in their own personal way.”

Text from the Melbourne International Arts Festival website

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Bill Viola
Fire Woman
2005
Video/sound installation
Performer: Robin Bonaccorsi
Photos: Kira Perov
Courtesy Bill Viola Studio and Kaldor Public Art Projects

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St Carthages, Parkville
123 Royal Parade
Parkville 3052

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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