The musée de La Boverie (Liège) is hosting a monographic exhibition on American artist Bill Viola. A major figure in contemporary art, he is considered as one of the pioneers of the medium of video art. Presented by Bill Viola Studio and Tempora, Bill Viola. Sculptor of Time is the first Belgian exhibition of international scope to celebrate the work of this unrivalled and hugely influential video artist.
Sculpting time, but also shaping space, Bill Viola’s creations inhabit and transform the space they occupy. Whether intimate or gigantic, La Boverie offers Bill Viola’s works a majestic setting in which viewers are free to explore their own experience. Like an invitation to travel, the exhibition unveils a territory of spaces, silences, images and sounds that appeal to the visitor’s senses and emotions. It’s easy to understand why, wherever he is exhibited, from Melbourne to Bilbao, via Tokyo, New York, Rome or Paris, Bill Viola’s art attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors. Now it’s the turn of the Belgian public to discover the scope of his immersive and powerful works.
An exceptional exhibition at the Musée de La Boverie, in Liège, a city with which the artist has a special bond, since he was awarded the insignia of Doctor Honoris Causa by the University of Liège in 2011.
BILL VIOLA. SCULPTOR OF TIME
Technically dazzling, Bill Viola’s works are at once grandiose and intimate, complex and surprisingly accessible, spectacular and profoundly human. The sources of inspiration for his installations are manifold, rooted in the artistic tradition of the Renaissance and drawing on various spiritual currents from the West and East: Christian mysticism, Buddhism and Sufism. All are imbued with a universal humanism.
A pioneer of video art, in the early ‘70s he worked alongside Nam June Paik, exploding the codes of television and cinema. Bill Viola invented a new grammar of the moving image: powerful, fascinatingly beautiful and steeped in a deeply spiritual inquiry. In contrast to Hollywood codes and the formatting of documentary or television entertainment, this new language drew on the aesthetic reflections of the visual arts and broadened their focus. The screen thus became the preferred medium, and the camera the eye that captures and describes the world. A new medium was born.
Speaking the unspeakable, touching the sacred and probing the mysterious, summoning both light and shadow, elevating hearts and minds in an irresistible ascent, Bill Viola’s works call for contemplation, often leading to self-reflection.
Bill Viola’s strength lies in immersing viewers in his works. No one is insensitive to the experiences he presents, for they resonate deeply with each and every one of us. His works address fundamental themes such as birth, life and death, and evoke primordial emotions such as empathy, suffering and hope. They encourage us to reconnect with ourselves, and raise awareness of essential questions, without imposing answers. “The ancients called them Mysteries. They don’t call for answers. There are no answers to birth or death. You have to experience it, you can approach it or study it, but you can never give a definitive answer”, says Bill Viola.
Bill Viola is one of those artists whose work makes us aware of our own mortality, which is intrinsic to the human condition. As human beings, our relationship with the world is defined by time, and it is this time that Bill Viola sculpts in his works, manipulating it, slowing it to an extreme, sometimes to the point of immobility. In the space between indefinitely elongated seconds, he reveals to us what usually remains concealed, shifting us from the realm of the visible to that of the perceptible, inciting us to contemplate the essence of things rather than merely their appearance.
“All art is contemporary art, born in radical new ideas.”Bill Viola
The exhibition itinerary brings together 18 major works spanning the artist’s career over the last three decades. Visitors are invited to wander freely, immersing themselves in a visual and sonic universe of unparalleled power. Bill Viola’s works are universes in themselves, experiences to be lived in a singular, unique and distinct way each time, as they often present multiple points of view. They require the visitor to relinquish control over time, to be carried along by the slow, irresistible flow of images. Each work has a powerful visual appeal that draws viewers in, challenging them to question the meaning of what they have seen, and appealing to their emotional intelligence.
Close to the principle of indeterminacy, developed in music by John Cage and his acolyte, composer and pianist David Tudor, with whom Bill Viola collaborated extensively early in his career, the itinerary is left to the discretion of the visitor. Clarifying his thinking, John Cage declared that “[My] intention is to let things be themselves”, before defining indeterminacy as “the capacity for a work of art to be interpreted in significantly different ways”. This principle has essentially guided the way the exhibition is freely arranged.
Themes emerge and echo one another like a leitmotif – transition, ritual, connection beyond the grave, life, death, water as a primary element, transfiguration – but the viewer is free to insert his or her own perspective and approach the exhibition without any chronological or thematic considerations, choosing his or her own path and pace. Each installation thus offers a universe and a narrative in itself, to be appreciated separately, inviting contemplation, emotion and reflection.
Plan your visit:
From 21 October 2023 to 28 April 2024.
Musée de La Boverie Parc de la Boverie 3 4020 Liège
More info: Visit the official website.