Four Hands // Bill Viola // Black-and-white video polyptych on four LCD flat panels, continuously running // 2001
“The Moving Portrait,” an exhibition dedicated to media and video works by Bill Viola, were on view in the National Portrait Gallery in the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Viola uses events from the past, both historical and personal, to create his works. “The Raft,” was inspired by Theodore Gericault’s 1818-1819 “The Raft of the Medusa,” which depicted a French shipwreck near Senegal in 1816. However, instead of a raft of shipwrecked men, Viola shows men and women being knocked down by crashing water. As they rise the water comes and knocks them down again. This video projection was made for the 2004 Athens Olympics. While this work was inspired by a historical event and a past painting, “The Dreamers” was influenced by Viola’s near-drowning as a child. This work consists of seven video screens of seven individuals suspended in water. One of the individuals is Viola himself.
The Raft // Bill Viola // Color high-definition video projection 5.1 channels of surround sound, duration: 10:33 minutes // 2004
The Dreamers // Bill Viola // Seven channels of color high-definition video on seven plasma displays: four channels of stereo sound, continuously running // Performers (L) Gleb Kaminer (R)Rebekah Rife // 2013
Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii // Nam June Paik // forty-nine-channel closed-circuit video installation, neon, steel & electronic components
Located in the heart of our nation’s capital is an art museum dedicated to acquiring and exhibiting American art. Known as SAAM, the Smithsonian American Art Museum has an extensive collection of works including early America, the 19th and 20th centuries and portraiture, to name a few. Here are a few that caught my eye.
Snails Space with Vari-Lites, “Painting as Performance” // David Hockney // oil & acrylic on canvas with Vari Lights // 1995-1996
Drag-on // Karin Davie // oil on canvas // 1999
Sculpture Group Symbolizing World’s Communication in the Atomic Age // Harry Bertoia // brazed & welded brass & bronze // 1959
Nenuphar // Alexander Calder // sheet steel // 1968
William Jefferson Clinton (Forty-second president) // Chuck Close // oil on canvas // 2006
Tableau Noir // Alexander Calder // painted steel // 1970 // 140 x 145 x 140 in
Black Friday // Sophia Al-Maria // 2016 // digital video, color, sound; 16:36 min & The Litany // Sophia Al-Maria // 2016 // Sand, glitter, glass, smartphones, computer screens, tablet computers, and USB cables, with multichannel looped digital video, color & black-and-white, sound; durations variable
In a darkened room a tall, vertical screen looms over a pile of sand scattered with partially working electronics. Various scenes flash on the screen including a mannequin face, people riding escalators and scenes from shopping malls in the Middle East. The video work, titled Black Friday, and the electronic installation titled The Litany, explore consumerism and the adaptation of the shopping mall into the Gulf Arab nations, something the artist, Sophia Al-Maria, calls “Gulf Futurism.”
The Litany // Sophia Al-Maria // 2016 // Sand, glitter, glass, smartphones, computer screens, tablet computers, and USB cables, with multichannel looped digital video, color & black-and-white, sound; durations variable
Take Me Here by the Dishwashwer: Memorial for a Marriage // Ragnar Kjartansson// Performance installation from 14 July to 4 September, eight hours daily // Music by Kjartan Sveinsson // 2011-2014
Recently on view at the Barbican in London was a retrospective by Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson. The exhibition included video works, paintings, dioramas and a live performance. My favorite piece was the nine screen video work The Visitors, 2012. In this work, visitors enter the room and see nine projection screens that show a different room in a house. There is a bathroom, a bedroom, a living room, the front porch. Each room has a musician playing an instrument such as banjo, piano or cello. In unison they all sing the same song. The figures interact with each other on multiple screens. For example, when the cellist in one room gets up to leave, you see her walk out of the room and then she is no longer on the screen. Where did she go? You have to go to another screen to find her entering the family room. The work ends with everyone walking out to the porch together to finish the song together.
Take Me Here by the Dishwashwer: Memorial for a Marriage // Ragnar Kjartansson // Performance installation from 14 July to 4 September, eight hours daily // Music by Kjartan Sveinsson // 2011-2014
Die Nacht der Hochzeit // Ragnar Kjartansson // 2015-2016 // watercolors on paper
The End – Venezia // Ragnar Kjartansson // 2009 // 144 paintings oil on canvas // Performed at the Icelandic Pavilion during the 53rd Venice Biennale, Italy
Me and My Mother // Ragnar Kjartansson // 2000, 2005, 2010 and 2015 // Four single-channel videos
The Mapping Journey Project // Bouchra Khalili
Eight projector screens are scattered throughout the space at MoMA. Each screen shows hands drawing lines on maps. The screens are The Mapping Journey Project by Bouchra Khalili. The eight screens show the journeys by eight individuals who were forced to leave their home for various reasons, be that political or economical. Watchers are able to hear the individual’s voice and see their hands trace their journey with pen on a map, however they are denied seeing the travelers.
The End — Rocky Mountains // Ragnar Kjartansson // 5 channel video installation, 30’ // 2009
Before entering the room, the sound of what seems a familiar folk song echoes in the hallway. Inside the room are five large projections of beautiful Rocky Mountains landscapes. The Icelandic artist, Ragnar Kjartansson, and his friend are shown playing guitars or pianos in various locations in the snowy mountains. Sometimes, only one person is playing music while the other walks back in forth trying to keep warm. The harmony mixed with the image of the pristine white mountains provide for an intimate viewing experience.
Moving Stillness (Mt. Rainier) // Bill Viola // 1979 // Video/sound installation Color videotape playback with rear projection reflected off water surface of a pool in a large, dark room; aquarium aerator with timing circuit; amplified stereo sound // Edition of 2 + 1 AP // Blain Southern Gallery // Photograph by Seán Mac Oitir
Contemporary video artist Bill Viola now has one of his installations, Moving Stillness (Mt. Rainier) on view in Blain Southern Gallery, London. A leader in the video art world, Viola’s work consists of a video screen located over a pool of water. The video coupled with the pool of water serves to highlight the transcendence of nature. While the mountain may appear to move across the screen, it is in fact still. It is Moving Stillness after all. The sounds of the video and the visual rippling of the water cause you to feel as though the image is moving. It plays with your eye. This work is on view until November so you still have time to experience Moving Stillness (Mt. Rainier).