SEEING WITH THE EYES AND WITH THE HEART: BILL VIOLA’S SPIRITUAL JOURNEYS

Mercoledì 12 luglio ore 17.30

Conference with Valentina Valentini

In collaboration with Palazzo Strozzi

‘I’ve seen a need for providing images or visions that talk to what happens when you’re healed, and to the process of healing and to alternative. If the world is all falling down, then let’s envision a world that is built up again, or complete. If the self is being fragmented, let’s visualise a self that’s whole.’ (Bill Viola, 1998)

In collaboration with the Bill Viola. Rinascimento elettronico exhibition now on at Palazzo Strozzi, the Museo Novecento is hosting a conference with Valentina Valentini, devoted to the master of video art.

Bill Viola’s vision of art is far distanced from any of the cynical post-modernist aesthetics. In his view, the task of the artist is to transform the world instead of duplicating it, to connect the individual to a whole that encompasses him – in which man and nature, life and death are part of a vital cycle; something in incessant transformation. Bill Viola’s vast production – which continues since 1970s – has centred on three representative formats: the single-channel video and the self portrait; environmental installations that bring time and space together; the liquid-crystal screens of The Passions cycle of works.

In Viola’s videos, through to Deserts (1994), the artist is always present as he writes, eats, fills a glass with water, watches TV, sleeps: commonplace actions that lend a veneer of intimacy and at the same time reveal the coexistence of author, producer and performer. The work is the camera of the artist’s thought, a long shot of souvenir images, dreams, ghosts and stimuli, drives. The body as face and as posture is key figure in Viola’s poetic world.

In the installation entitled Slowly Turning Narrative (1992), the sound register creates a sensory envelope around the spectator, transporting him into the places he is shown. Sound dilates into the space, it constructs the third dimension of the image, it gives it physical attributes and the capability to enter into a dialogue with the environment. In The Stopping Mind (1991), giving voice to thought, to the mental flux, with emission of words at first incomprehensible and then distinct, creates for the listener the sensation that the voice is in his own head: inside and outside conjoin.
In the cycle inaugurated by The Passions, Viola uses plasma screens and recovers the frame to allow the ‘unburied images’ of Italian painting of the Quattrocento and of the Renaissance to emerge. The artist moves from en plein air recordings to construction of a set on a sound stage, from natural landscapes to the neutral backgrounds produced by the digital technologies – which he calls the technologies of the intangible. There is a single subject in these works: the human figure, treated both as a silhouette immersed in a luminous gaseous medium as fluid as water and as a carnal presence, ‘obscene’ in the awfulness of its pathetic expressions. For the artist, The Passions represents another step into that interior space he has always explored with technological devices: to sink into oneself, to be on the verge of a mental experience, to have, with images, the same intimate relationship a reader has with the book.

Free admission on a first come, first served basis. Admission to the museum is not included.