Bill Viola, a renowned video artist which I’ve known for a while, but never really get to study a bit more about his pieces and how he comes to connect with these pieces. And then, his name popped up again by someone I knew and she highly recommended me to study his work, and draws inspiration from his work. So I did.
I couldn’t really find work of his on the internet, only glimpses of his work, but I’ve been watching a lot of his videos and how he talks about his different pieces of work. And then I realised that, the reason why his work are always about water came from the accident he had when he was 6 years old.
“The Dreamers” is a set of video installation work combining photography and videos together. From the youtube interview I got a chance to look at the work through that. They are images of people eye closed, seems like lying down somewhere at the bottom of the stream and breathing, indicated by the occasional bubbles popping up from their nostrils or mouth. Viola said,
“In ancient time, when people go drink water in the stream, that’s their first time to see reflections of themselves, and for the first time they acquire a sense of self for the very first time.”
So the medium of water comes to build our self-knowledge even before mirrors, which Jacques Lacan refers to as the “mirror stage”. And that water is a crucial element for humanity, not only are we 70% made up of water but also because of this reflection stage which leads us to discover ourselves for the very first time.
The work itself I have so many questions with. First of course is, how the heck did he make those moving images? I am super intrigued by the technical side of it as surely he didn’t ask participants to really lie down on the bottom of a shallow stream and video it. Then the more I look at each installed image, the more I feel meditative and calm, like the rhythm of their breathing was in sync with mine, and as Viola said, it does mimic as though we were dreaming.
Some of the words he says I agree with totally with my heart,
“Human beings need to touch the ground. There’s a reason why this is called Mother Earth. And the grounding is absolutely crucial for making connections.”
And then there was his work “Martyrs” which I like very much also. It is capturing (using moving images) to portray the 4 basic elements: earth, water, wind and fire. And this work was showcased at St Paul’s Cathedral. Again, so many questions arise from how he make those moving images, to how he comes up with ideas to represent the 4 elements and then how it can be transformed and displayed in a Cathedral which brings another level of impact with the work (because of the history and the element of religion). This work will totally be read different if it was displayed in a gallery.
To be continued… (since too much of his work needs to be discussed and written down)