Posts Tagged ‘water

13
Jan
14

Exhibition: ‘Edward Burtynsky: Water’ presented by The New Orleans Museum of Art and the Contemporary Arts Center

Exhibition dates: 5th October 2013 – 19th January  2014

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“Now with the assistance of the web and being able to look at things in a bit more depth before I go there, I can actually predetermine my pictures…”

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Edward Burtynsky

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Predetermined weather music

The geometric images such as Navajo Reservation / Suburb (2011), Pivot Irrigation #11 (2011) and Pivot Irrigation / Suburb (2011) are of more interest here, with their juxtaposition of irrigation/habitation/nature. I especially like the Andreas Gursky-esque patterning of Benidorm #2 (2010) but I’m really over the abstract pattern of rivers, rice terraces and greenhouses covering the plane of view, mainly because so many photographers have done it and all in the same way. You only have to type in ‘Australian aerial landscape photographer’ into Google Images to see what I mean. Australia even has its own version in the West Australian photographer Richard Woldendorp. Bet you can’t tell the difference between the two photographers in a blind taste test!

These images are a bit like elevator music (also known as Muzak, piped music, weather music or lift music). Quite a nice analogy, weather music, as these photographs are generic, middle of the road easy listening abstraction, beauty, and formality – images with a simple melody that constantly loop back to the beginning, commonly played through speakers (in this case the institutions that laud such repetitive work).

While Burtynsky’s work seeks to explore the relationship between art and environment, “focusing on all the facets of people’s relationship with water, including ritual and leisure,” he offers evidence without argument. And there is the crux of the problem. When an artist promulgates an objective point of view without comment, they run the risk of saying very little with the work for they have nothing to say themselves. It’s like being part of Adolf Hitler’s exhibition in answer to the Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) exhibition of 1937, the photographs seemingly “officially sanctioned” by the earth and the artist with gravitas added through contemplation (muzak encourages you to slow down and browse!) Personally, I’m not buying what Burtynsky is selling.

There is nothing passionate, weak, decadent and impure here. Perhaps the artist needs to change the angle of attack for me to sit up and take notice. Otherwise the motion of the train has a somewhat soporific effect.

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Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to The New Orleans Museum of Art and the Contemporary Arts Center for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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NOMA CAC 

NOMA CAC is an ongoing exhibition and programming partnership between two of the most significant cultural institutions of New Orleans: the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Contemporary Arts Center. Edward Burtynsky: Water is the second initiative of this unique collaboration, which will draw on the strengths of both institutions to provide thought-provoking exhibitions and programming for a cross section of the community. The exhibition is presented in the second floor Lupin Foundation Gallery of the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC).

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Where I Stand: A Behind the Scenes Look at Edward Burtynsky’s Photographic Essay, Water

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Edward Burtynsky. 'Xiaolangdi Dam #1, Yellow River, Henan Province, China' 2011

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Edward Burtynsky
Xiaolangdi Dam #1, Yellow River, Henan Province, China
2011

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Edward Burtynsky. 'Cerro Prieto Geothermal Power Station, Baja, Mexico' 2012

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Edward Burtynsky
Cerro Prieto Geothermal Power Station, Baja, Mexico
2012

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Edward Burtynsky. 'Marine Aquaculture #1, Luoyuan Bay, Fujian Province, China' 2012

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Edward Burtynsky
Marine Aquaculture #1, Luoyuan Bay, Fujian Province, China
2012

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Edward Burtynsky. 'Rice Terraces #2, Western Yunnan Province, China' 2012

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Edward Burtynsky
Rice Terraces #2, Western Yunnan Province, China
2012

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Edward Burtynsky. 'Verona Walk, Naples, Florida, USA' 2012

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Edward Burtynsky
Verona Walk, Naples, Florida, USA
2012

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Edward Burtynsky. 'Thjorsá River #1, Iceland' 2012

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Edward Burtynsky
Thjorsá River #1, Iceland
2012

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Edward Burtynsky. 'Stepwell #4, Sagar Kund Baori, Bundi, Rajasthan, India' 2010

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Edward Burtynsky
Stepwell #4, Sagar Kund Baori, Bundi, Rajasthan, India
2010

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“NOMA CAC is proud to present Edward Burtynsky: Water, the world premiere of the latest body of work by internationally renowned photographer Edward Burtynsky, opening Saturday, October 5 in the second floor Lupin Foundation Gallery of the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC). This second initiative of the ongoing NOMA CAC programming partnership includes over 50 large-scale color photographs that form a global portrait of humanity’s relationship to water. Burtynsky’s images address several facets of the world’s vital resource, exploring the source, collection, control, displacement, and depletion of water. The exhibition opens on October 5, 2013 and runs through January 19, 2014.

Edward Burtynsky (born 1955, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada) has long been recognized for his ability to combine vast and serious subject matter with a rigorous, formal approach to picture making. The results are images that are part abstraction, part architecture, and part raw data. In producing Water, Burtynsky has worked across the globe – from the Gulf of Mexico to the shores of the Ganges – weaving together an ambitious representation of water’s increasingly fragmented lifecycle.

“The CAC is thrilled to be able to premiere an exhibition of this scale and quality through our partnership with NOMA,” said Neil Barclay, Executive Director of the Contemporary Arts Center. “Burtynsky’s work has long served as a commentary on the relationship between art and environment, and I believe the subject of these works will be of keen interest to anyone who has experienced life in New Orleans over the past decade.”

“Five years in the making, Water is at once Burtynsky’s most detailed and expansive project to date, with images of the 2010 Gulf oil spill, step wells in India, dam construction in China, aquaculture, farming, and pivot irrigation systems,” said Susan M. Taylor, Director of the New Orleans Museum of Art. In addition Water includes some of the first pure landscapes that Burtynsky has made since the early 1980s. These archaic, almost primordial looking images of British Columbia place the structures of water control in a historical context – tracing the story of water from the ancient to the modern, and back again.

While the story of water is certainly an ecological one, Burtynsky is more interested in presenting the facts on the ground than in declaring society’s motives good or bad. In focusing on all the facets of people’s relationship with water, including ritual and leisure, Burtynsky offers evidence without an argument. “Burtynsky’s work functions as an open ended question about humanity’s past, present, and future,” said Russell Lord, Freeman Family Curator of Photographs at the New Orleans Museum of Art. “The big question is: do these pictures represent the achievement of humanity or one of its greatest faults, or both? Each visitor might find a different answer in this exhibition, depending upon what they bring to it.”

The exhibition, organized by Russell Lord, is accompanied by a catalogue published by Steidl with over 100 color plates from Burtynsky’s water series. It includes essays by Lord and Wade Davis, renowned anthropologist and Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society.”

Press release from NOMA CAC

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Edward Burtynsky. 'Navajo Reservation / Suburb, Phoenix, Arizona, USA' 2011

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Edward Burtynsky
Navajo Reservation / Suburb, Phoenix, Arizona, USA
2011

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Edward Burtynsky. 'Pivot Irrigation #11, High Plains, Texas Panhandle, USA' 2011

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Edward Burtynsky
Pivot Irrigation #11, High Plains, Texas Panhandle, USA
2011

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Edward Burtynsky. 'Pivot Irrigation / Suburb, South of Yuma, Arizona, USA' 2011

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Edward Burtynsky
Pivot Irrigation / Suburb, South of Yuma, Arizona, USA
2011

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Edward Burtynsky. 'Benidorm #2, Spain' 2010

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Edward Burtynsky
Benidorm #2, Spain
2010

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Edward Burtynsky. 'Dryland Farming #2, Monegros County, Aragon, Spain' 2010

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Edward Burtynsky
Dryland Farming #2, Monegros County, Aragon, Spain
2010

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Edward Burtynsky. 'Dryland Farming #24, Monegros County, Aragon, Spain' 2010

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Edward Burtynsky
Dryland Farming #24, Monegros County, Aragon, Spain
2010

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Edward Burtynsky. 'Greenhouses, Almira Peninsula, Spain' 2010

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Edward Burtynsky
Greenhouses, Almira Peninsula, Spain
2010

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Contemporary Arts Center
900 Camp Street
New Orleans, LA 70130-3908

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Monday 11am – 5pm

Contemporary Arts Center website

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16
Oct
10

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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24
Jun
10

Sculpture: ‘Drawing Water’ (2010) by Fredrick White

June 2010

 

Fredrick White. 'Drawing Water' 2010

 

Fredrick White
Drawing Water
2010

 

 

My best friend, Australian sculpture Fredrick White, has been commissioned to create two public sculptures in Western Queensland. The first has been completed at Thargomindah (see Google map), a town located 1014 km west of Brisbane and was commissioned by artplusplace and Thargomindah Regional Council. In a small town of 250 people this is the town’s first public sculpture.

“The town’s one claim to fame is its artesian bore. The bore, which lies 2 km out of town on the Noccundra road, was drilled in 1891 and by 1893, having drilled to a depth of 795 metres, the water came to the surface. It was then that the town successfully attempted a unique experiment. The pressure of the bore water was used drive a generator which supplied the town’s electricity. Enthusiasts have described this as Australia’s first hydro-electricity scheme. The system operated until 1951. Today the bore still provides the town’s water supply. The water reaches the surface at 84°C.”

Text from the Sydney Morning Herald travel website February 8, 2004 [Online] Cited 17/08/2019

 

The work Drawing Water (2010) addresses the need for water in such an arid location and the numerous bores that are sunk around the town to draw water to the surface. The earth is reflected in the sky and the sky in the earth in the central polished stainless steel disks (as friend Perry observes, like a tunnel connecting earth and heaven). A forest of bore pipes surround the central platform. Of the work Fred says:

“‘Drawing Water’ speaks of our connection to the Earth, specifically the Great Artesian Basin and the bores that provide the only continuous source of water throughout much of inland Australia. The 52 galvanised poles symbolise not only our year round need for water but are also as a reminder of how extensively taped the artesian water is.”

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It is a wonderfully balanced and thoughtful work that has great presence and beauty.

The next commission is at Blackall in Western Queensland (see Google map). A drawing of the work Lifespan (2010), which is 8 metres long, is at the bottom of the posting. Blackall already contains public sculptures by William Eicholtz (Towners Call – Edgar Towner V.C. Memorial (2009)) and Robert Bridgewater (Wool, Water and Wood (2008)).

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

 

Fredrick White. 'Drawing Water' 2010

 

Fredrick White
Drawing Water
2010

 

Fredrick White. 'Drawing Water' (detail) 2010

Fredrick White. 'Drawing Water' (detail) 2010

Fredrick White. 'Drawing Water' (detail) 2010

 

Fredrick White
Drawing Water (details)
2010

 

'Lifespan' (2010), drawing for commission at Blackall, Queensland

 

Fredrick White
Lifespan
2010
Drawing for commission at Blackall, Queensland

 

 

Fredrick White Sculpture website

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25
Feb
09

Exhibition: ‘Biografías’ by Óscar Muñoz at Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 19th February – 14th June 2009

 

Óscar Muñoz. 'Biografías' 2002 installation view

Óscar Muñoz. 'Biografías' 2002 installation view

 

Óscar Muñoz
Biografías (installation views)
2002
5 video projections, 7 ‘, loop, without sound, DVD, mdf support, metal grids, variable dimensions

 

 

“How can one construe a notion of time in this immemorial setting? How can one assimilate and articulate in one’s memory all these events that have been happening for so many years now?”

“My work today … is based on my endeavour to understand the mechanism developed by a society which has ultimately suffered the routinisation of war… A past, a present and in all likelihood a future full of violent events on a daily basis, which are stubbornly repeated, in a practically identical fashion.”

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Óscar Muñoz

 

 

Óscar Muñoz is something of a gentle magician. His ‘disappearing’ drawings are poignant and beautiful, combining consummate skill with conceptual subtlety and rigour.

Muñoz is a senior Colombian artist. He plays an important role in mentoring younger artists but his own work is very focused on a personal language that is closely tied to the body and its disappearance. His work has always combined traditional drawing skills with video in a completely original and surprising way.

Although Muñoz is not assertively political, his work is more about mortality than specific acts of violence but it is impossible not to look at it in the context of Colombian life. A common technique for social control has become the ‘disappearing’ of people. The work shown in this exhibition, Biografías 2002 is structured to reflect this pervasive theme of disappearance.

Biografías is one of a series of works in which portraits slowly disappear, reflecting the disappearance of people on a regular basis in Colombia. Muñoz has made silk screen portraits of people but instead of forcing ink through the screen onto paper he has dusted fine coal dust through the screen onto a flat basin of water. The portrait in coal is then transferred to float on the surface of the water. After a while the water starts to drain out of a plug hole in the basin causing the image to begin to distort. Eventually the image is compressed becomes unrecognisable and finally disappears down the drain.

Five such portraits are shown in Biografías by projecting video of the performed drawings onto screens on the floor complete with plug holes beneath which you hear the sound of water running down the drain.

Text from the Art Gallery of New South Wales website [Online] Cited 22/02/2009 (no longer online)

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Many thankx to Art Gallery of New South Wales for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the art work for a larger version of the image.

 

Óscar Muñoz. 'Biografías' 2002 installation view

Óscar Muñoz. 'Biografías' 2002 installation view

Óscar Muñoz. 'Biografías' 2002 installation view

 

Óscar Muñoz
Biografías (installation views)
2002
5 video projections, 7 ‘, loop, without sound, DVD, mdf support, metal grids, variable dimensions

 

 

Óscar Muñoz Biografías

The work refers to the idea of death, disappearance and transience of memory, linked to acts of violence.

Muñoz is also known for his use of ephemeral materials, in poetic reflections upon memory and mortality.

 

 

Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery Road, The Domain
Sydney NSW 2000, Australia

Opening hours:
Open every day 10am – 5pm
except Christmas Day and Good Friday

Art Gallery of New South Wales website

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24
Feb
09

Review: ‘Ocean Without A Shore’ video installation by Bill Viola at The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

February 2009

 

Originally installed inside the intimate 15th century Venetian church of San Gallo as part of the 2007 Venice Biennale incorporating its internal architecture into the piece using the three existing stone altars as support for the video screens, the installation has been recreated in a small darkened room at The National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. What an installation it is.

Deprived of the ornate surroundings of the altars of the Venetian chapel – altars of which Viola has said that, “… as per the original development of the origins of Christianity these alters actually are a place where the dead kind of reside and connect with those of us, the living, who are here on earth. And they really are a connection between a cross, between a tomb and an alter – a place to pray,”1 – the viewer is forced to concentrate on the images themselves. This is no bad thing, stripping away as it does a formalised, religious response to mortality.

In the work Viola combines the use of a primitive twenty five year old security black and white analogue video surveillance camera with a high definition colour video camera through the use of a special mirror prism system. This technology allows for the seamless combination of both inputs: the dead appear far off in a dark obscure place as grey ghosts in a sea of pulsating ‘noise’ and gradually walk towards you, crossing the invisible threshold of a transparent water wall that separates the dead from the living, to appear in the space transformed into a detailed colour image. As they do so the sound that accompanies the transformation grows in intensity reminding me of a jet aircraft. You, the viewer, are transfixed watching every detail as the ghosts cross-over into the light, through a water curtain.

The performances of the actors (for that is what they are) are slow and poignant. As Viola has observed, “I spent time with each person individually talking with them and you know when you speak with people, you realise then that everybody has experienced some kind of loss in their life, great and small. So you speak with them, you work with them, you spend time and that comes to the surface while we were working on this project together, you know? I didn’t want to over-direct them because I knew that the water would have this kind of visual effect and so they were able to, I think, use this piece on their own and a lot of them had their own stories of coming back and visiting a relative perhaps, who had died.”1

The resurrected are pensive, some wringing the hands, some staring into the light. One offers their hands to the viewer in supplication before the tips of the fingers touch the wall of water – the ends turning bright white as they push through the penumbrae of the interface. As they move forward the hands take on a stricken anguish, stretched out in rigour. Slowly the resurrected turn and return to the other side. We watch them as we watch our own mortality, life slipping away one day after another. Here is not the distraction of a commodified society, here is the fact of every human life: that we all pass.

The effect on the viewer is both sad but paradoxically uplifting. I cried.

A friend who I went with said that the images reminded her not of the dead temporarily coming back to life, but the birth of a new life – the breaking of water at the birth of a child. The performers seemed to her to behave like children brought anew into the world. One of my favourite moments was when the three screens were filled with just noise and a figure then appears out of the beyond, a dim and distant outline creating a transcendental moment. Unfortunately there are no images of these grainy figures. As noted below Viola uses a variety of different ethnic groups and cultures for his performers but the one very small criticism I have is they have no real individuality as people – there are no bikers with tattoos, no cross dressers, no punks because these do not serve his purpose. There is the black woman, the old woman, the middle aged man, the younger 30s man in black t-shirt: these are generic archetypes of humanity moulded to Viola’s artistic vision.

Viola has commented, “I think I have designed a piece that’s open ended enough, where the people and the range of people, the kind of people we chose are from various ethnic groups and cultures. And I think that the feeling of more this is a piece about humanity and it’s about the fragility of life, like the borderline between life and death is actually not a hard wall, it’s not to be opened with a lock and key, its actually very fragile, very tenuous.

You can cross it like that in an instant and I think religions, you know institutions aside, I think just the nature of our awareness of death is one of the things that in any culture makes human beings have that profound feeling of what we call the human condition and that’s really something I am really interested in. I think this piece really has a lot to do with, you know, our own mortality and all that that means.”1

These series of encounters at the intersection of life and death are worthy of the best work of this brilliant artist. He continues to astound with his prescience, addressing what is undeniable in the human condition. Long may he continue.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

 

  1. TateShots. Venice Biennale: Bill Viola. 30 June 2007 [Online] Cited 23/09/2009 (no longer available)

 

 

 

 

Ocean Without a Shore is about the presence of the dead in our lives. The three stone altars in the church of San Gallo become portals for the passage of the dead to and from our world. Presented as a series of encounters at the intersection between life and death, the video sequence documents a succession of individuals slowly approaching out of darkness and moving into the light. Each person must then break through an invisible threshold of water and light in order to pass into the physical world. Once incarnate however, all beings realise that their presence is finite and so they must eventually turn away from material existence to return from where they came. The cycle repeats without end.”

Bill Viola
25 May 2007
Text © Bill Viola 2007

 

The work was inspired by a poem by the twentieth century Senegalese poet and storyteller Birago Diop:

Hearing things more than beings,
listening to the voice of fire,
the voice of water.
Hearing in wind the weeping bushes,
sighs of our forefathers.

The dead are never gone:
they are in the shadows.
The dead are not in earth:
they’re in the rustling tree,
the groaning wood,
water that runs,
water that sleeps;
they’re in the hut, in the crowd,
the dead are not dead.

The dead are never gone,
they’re in the breast of a woman,
they’re in the crying of a child,
in the flaming torch.

The dead are not in the earth:
they’re in the dying fire,
the weeping grasses,
whimpering rocks,
they’re in the forest, they’re in the house,
the dead are not dead.

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Text from the Ocean Without A Shore website [Online] Cited 23/09/2009 (no longer available)

 

 

Bill Viola. 'Ocean Without A Shore' 2007 video still

Bill Viola. 'Ocean Without A Shore' 2007 video still

Bill Viola. 'Ocean Without A Shore' 2007 video insatllation

Bill Viola. 'Ocean Without A Shore' 2007 video insatllation

 

Installation photographs of Ocean Without A Shore at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

 

Bill Viola. 'Ocean Without A Shore' 2007 original video installation at church of San Gallo

 

Bill Viola
Ocean Without A Shore
2007
Original installation at church of San Gallo

 

 

NGV International
180 St Kilda Road, Melbourne

Open daily 10am-5pm

National Gallery of Victoria International website

Bill Viola website

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24
Jan
09

Review: ‘The Water Hole’ exhibition by Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger at ACCA (Australian Centre for Contemporary Art), Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 23rd December 2008 – 1st March 2009

 

“Warning. Watch your step while gazing at distant view.”

Sign at entrance to the exhibition

 

 

Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger. Entrance to 'The Waterhole' exhibition at ACCA, Melbourne, 2009

 

Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger
Entrance to The Water Hole exhibition at ACCA, Melbourne
2009

 

 

A cave like entrance presents itself to the visitor as they enter the exhibition leading to a long winding tunnel that is lined with silver insulation foil and tree branches, lit by floor mounted electric light bulbs. The foil moves with the natural movement of air causing not a rustling of leaves but of artificial surfaces.

At the end of the tunnel the viewer enters a large installation space, confronted with a effusive pop art Garden of Eden, a Magic Forest.

It takes a while to work out what is going on, there are so many elements to the sculptural piece. The main elements are buckets, toilets, basins and drainage pipes, plumbing fittings that all lead to a bed with a drying dam in the centre of a satin bedspread: the ‘waterhole’ of the exhibition title. The waterhole is fed by water dripping from a medical bag suspended high in the air above the dam, a nice touch. The rest of the forest and pipes are dry. The installation comments on our water supplies and the ‘technologies of production’ (Foucault) that permit us to produce, transform or manipulate things. We might install rainwater tanks to catch water but if there is no water to catch in the first place then we are in trouble: we make our bed and have to lie in it, the empty basins like our catchment areas, dry and bleak.

Other elements of the forest have an environmental theme, the installation developed by the artists in response to the extensive drought most of Australia (and it particular Melbourne) is experiencing. Here are spiders with hairy legs and mobile phones for bodies infesting the installation, plumbing fittings with natural seeds sprouting from their ends, brightly coloured crystal forms fed each day with water by gallery staff so that they grow. An upside down umbrella with Polar bear images printed on it’s material has imaginary water draining down a bamboo pipe into a bucket; empty water bottles form a large nest with broken eggs inside; artificial plants, bones, crabs, seaweed and flying stuffed owls are form some of the other elements in the installation.

Climbing a few steps we enter a ‘bird’ watching gallery replete with binoculars to observe the humans in the forest as much as the forest itself. A water cooler sits incongruously in this watching space, silent and somehow complicit in its ironical presence.

The viewer then moves to another room. 4 video projectors display another water themed installation on the gallery walls, the videos meeting in the middle of the walls and reflecting each other. Ambient music accompanies images of rain!, spurting water, owls and plastic pipes, plastic flowers and plastic horses as the viewer relaxes on a waterbed in the middle of the space. The effect of the music and images is quite meditative when combined with the gentle rocking of the waterbed, the projections of the video forming kaleidoscopic ‘Northern lights’ on the ceiling of the gallery. This room is an extension of the themes of the large installation.

Moving forward the viewer enters another room – the meditation room. This room is most effective in encouraging contemplation of the different planes of our existence and our orientation in (environmental) space. Three beds are present, one suspended from the ceiling by four metal rods. Climbing onto this bed the movement from side to side caused by your weight makes you feel seasick and slightly disorientated. Above the second table is a wonderful mobile made of twigs, branches, dried leaves, plastic flowers, beads, plastic bags, baby dummies and jewellery moving gently in the breeze. Lying on the table with the mobile about a foot above your head things drift in and out of view as you change the focus of your eyes – close, mid, far and then onto the moving shadows on the ceiling.

The most effective bed has a small meteorite suspended in a net bag above it. The viewer slides underneath the ‘rock’ placing the meteorite about a foot or so above your face. The meteorite is brown, dark and heavy, swinging slightly above your ‘third eye’. You feel its weight pressing down on your energy, on your life force and you feel how old this object is, how far it has traveled, how fragile and mortal you are. It is a sobering and enlightening experience but what an experience it is!

Entering the final room small colour photos of people being hugged from behind and lifted into the air, laughing, line the gallery walls. These are the weakest elements of the exhibition and seem to bear no relation to all that has passed before. Running off of this gallery is an alcove that is a dead end, a full stop to the exhibition with an installation Desalination plant for tears. A cheap Formica desk sits at the end of the space. Perched above the desk is a tv showing live black and white images of the earlier bird watching gallery – the watcher now the watched. On the desk itself is a microscope (with slide of human tears), pencil, a candle for heat under a glass flask of water (looking like a spider from the large installation!) and various glass test tubes and vials. A diagram explains the working of a Desalination plant for tears, an analogous reference to the desalination plant earmarked for Wonthaggi, south-east of Melbourne. Irony is present (again) in the 2 leaves grown at Singapore Airport by desalinated water (2008), two framed, brown dead leaves, and in the Tear system diagram where glands have turned into forests and the eye into a lake (see below).

This is a magical and poignant exhibition that is a joy for children and adults alike. Children love it running around exploring the environments. Adults love it for it’s magical, witty and intelligent response to the problems facing our planet and our lives. Go and enjoy this interplanetary collision. Highly recommended!

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

.
Many thankx to the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art for allowing me to publish the photographs and text in the posting.

 

Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger. 'The Waterhole' 2009

 

Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger
The Water Hole
2009

 

Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger. 'The Waterhole' 2009

 

Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger
The Water Hole
2009

 

Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger. 'The Waterhole' 2009

 

Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger
The Water Hole
2009

 

Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger. Installation view of waterbed at 'The Waterhole' exhibition at ACCA, 2009

 

Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger
Installation view of waterbed at The Water Hole exhibition at ACCA, Melbourne
2009

 

Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger. Installation view of 'Desalination plant for tears' from 'The Water Hole' exhibition at ACCA, Melbourne, 2009

 

Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger. Installation view of 'Desalination plant for tears' (detail) from 'The Water Hole' exhibition at ACCA, Melbourne, 2009

 

Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger
Installation view of Desalination plant for tears from The Water Hole exhibition at ACCA, Melbourne
2009

 

Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger. Diagram from 'Desalination plant for tears' from the exhibition 'The Water Hole' at ACCA, Melbourne, 2009

 

Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger
Diagram from Desalination plant for tears from the exhibition The Water Hole at ACCA, Melbourne
2009

 

 

Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA)
111 Sturt Street
Southbank
Victoria 3006
Australia

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Friday 10am – 5pm
Weekends and Public Holidays 11am – 6pm
Monday by appointment
Open all public holidays except Christmas Day and Good Friday

ACCA website

Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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