Bill Viola - Five Angels for the Millennium
Photo © Kira Perov
Bill Viola, considered by many the father of video-art, presents his last work at the Gasometer in Oberhausen. This is an exhibition that cannot be commented on without taking into serious consideration its peculiar –but at the same time, challenging- location. Bill Viola had to face not the typical white cube and its accesible structure but a former industrial site (as the name of it clearly suggests), reconverted ten years ago to host art. The gasometer of Oberhausen is, with its 117,5m, the highest structure of its sort in Europa. It has uneven, circular walls rising very high and just a transparent lift, taking the visitors to the roof, interrupting their rather imposing surface.
Bill Viola installed right there five massive –still, in a way, “minimal” once compared to the structure hosting them- screens, at different heights (the highest is best to check from the terrace at the seventh floor, accessible by lift) and projected his last video work, dealing –and it will not be a surprise for those knowing well Viola’s art- with elements, feelings, deep reflection.
This time the chosen element is water; the artist filmed underwater its surface, at times wrinkling, others simply still. The environments depicted are mostly blueish as water; still, one screen is overwhelmingly red (Viola works with elementary colours). What one can hear, while taking in these extremely slow images, is underwater sounds (the videos are presented along with an overcoming sound installation). But then, all of a sudden, roars can be heard and the viewer cannot but search desperately through the screens to check whether something has actually happened somewhere and… there it is, a man, in white clothes, rising (nearly flying, again Viola plays with different elements) from water. A scene that would repeat differently - but constantly- in all the five screens.
Like it or not, Viola simply can.
Text by: M. Cecchinato