Friday, 6 June 2014

Bill Viola ~ 'Martyrs' ~ 'Tiny Deaths'

'Martyr's (Earth, Air, Fire, Water)' - 7' 00"

Bill Viola and Kira Perov's polyptych is now installed in St. Paul's Cathedral (Christopher Wren 1668-1697). It will be joined in 2015 by a companion work 'Mary'. St. Paul's description:

'Martyrs shows four individuals, across four colour vertical plasma screens, being martyred by the four classical elements.

As the work opens, four individuals are shown in stasis, a pause from their suffering. Gradually there is movement in each scene as an element of nature begins to disturb their stillness. Flames rain down, winds begin to lash, water cascades, and earth flies up. As the elements rage, each martyr’s resolve remains unchanged. In their most violent assault, the elements represent the darkest hour of the martyr’s passage through death into the light.

The work has no sound.'

To see Wren's masterpiece as it was intended, which cannot be recommended too highly, go to a service (particularly Sunday Choral Matins, link below). Tomi went recently and can describe the overwhelming intensity of sound and architecture. This is also the only way to see St. Paul's without paying. Other than going to a service there is an arbitrarily mad and chisel arsed exaction of £16.50 for entry. However, if you have a Tate membership you can reduce this by 50% throughout 2014 to see the Bill Viola and all open areas of the Cathedral. 'Martyr's' can be seen Monday to Saturday 8.30am - 4pm though do check St. Paul's calendar for closures due to baptisms etc.


'Tiny Deaths'. 1993. Three channel. B&W. Continuous.

Tate Modern ~ Spring 2015

'Three large projections appear on the walls of a dark room, each showing images of a human figure as it is suddenly exposed to a burst of high-intensity light. The normal state of the room is absolute darkness. Human forms gradually emerge from the blackness. The images exist at the threshold of perception. Barely visible at first, they become more clear the longer one stays in the room.

At random intervals, a light source slowly appears on the body of one of the figures, increasing until the illumination rapidly expands and accelerates to suddenly consume the whole body in a burst of saturated, blinding white light. The peak light momentarily illuminates the room and washes out the other two projections. All returns abruptly to darkness until another projected image moves through the same transformation.'


St. Paul's 'Martyrs'
St. Paul's ~ Bill Viola interview
St. Paul's services
Tate ~ 'Tiny Deaths'