Bill Viola is one of the world’s best-known video artists and a leading exponent of the medium, having spent an impressive four decades producing pioneering works like The Greeting, Going Forth by Day and The Quintet Series.
Last month, London gallery Blain Southern opened what it describes as a “museum-scale exhibition” on Viola. True to the spirit of the artist, however, the show doesn’t dwell on past successes – instead, fans have an exclusive opportunity to feast their eyes on nine new works.
Frustrated Actions and Futile Gestures consists of video installations created between 2012 and 2013, both on location and in Viola’s Southern California studio.
“Through these works, Viola engages with complex aspects of human experience, including mortality, transience and our persistent, yet ultimately futile attempts to truly and objectively understand ourselves and the meaning of our brief lives,” curators say.
They include The Dreamers, which is made up of seven individual screens – each an enormous 65-inch plasma display mounted vertically in a darkened space and accompanied by stereo sound. This immersive installation is essentially a work of portraiture, depicting people who appear to be sleeping underwater. Their ears caressed by the gentle sounds of water, visitors are led to feel uncannily as if they’re submerged alongside the subterranean dreamers.
In The Chapel of Frustrated Actions and Futile Gestures – a minimalist interpretation of Albert Camus’ the Myth of Sisyphus – exhibition-goers will be able to watch nine horizontal screens where figures repeat meaningless and unsuccessful activities. These include digging and refilling a hole, filling a cracked glass bowl with water, and pulling a cart uphill only to have it roll down again. By use of repetition, the gallery says, Viola renders each failed endeavour “all the more poignant”.
Blain Southern is one of the capital’s youngest contemporary art galleries, having only been opened in 2010. It is located on Hanover Square, so those booked into hotel accommodation in London should find the venue easy to reach. The nearest tube stop is Oxford Circus.