Cabinet of Curiosities

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Bill ViolaMartyrs
Colour high-definition video polyptychSouth Quire Aisle of St Paul’s Cathedral© Bill Viola
Martyrs (Earth, Air, Fire, Water) consists of four plasma screens, each showing a single figure who is progressively overwhelmed by the onslaught of a natural force. The experiences of the four individuals are orchestrated together to form a coherent whole. The overriding theme is martyrdom for deep-seated beliefs, with the physical suffering of the body made dramatically evident through the cardinal elements.

Reflecting that the Greek word for martyr originally meant ‘witness’, Viola has explained that the martyrs ‘exemplify the human capacity to bear pain, hardship and even death in order to remain faithful to their values, beliefs and principles.’ Like much of Viola’s work, Martyrs offers a contemporary contemplation on life, death and afterlife.

Bill Viola
Martyrs

Colour high-definition video polyptych
South Quire Aisle of St Paul’s Cathedral
© Bill Viola

Martyrs (Earth, Air, Fire, Water) consists of four plasma screens, each showing a single figure who is progressively overwhelmed by the onslaught of a natural force. The experiences of the four individuals are orchestrated together to form a coherent whole. The overriding theme is martyrdom for deep-seated beliefs, with the physical suffering of the body made dramatically evident through the cardinal elements.

Reflecting that the Greek word for martyr originally meant ‘witness’, Viola has explained that the martyrs ‘exemplify the human capacity to bear pain, hardship and even death in order to remain faithful to their values, beliefs and principles.’ Like much of Viola’s work, Martyrs offers a contemporary contemplation on life, death and afterlife.

Filed under bill viola martyrs video art

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Roman Opalka, details from OPALKA 1965/ 1-, 1965-2011

In 1965, in his studio in Warsaw, Opalka began painting a process of counting—from one to infinity. Starting in the top left-hand corner of the canvas and finishing in the bottom right-hand corner, the tiny numbers are painted in horizontal rows. Each new canvas, which the artist calls a ‘detail’, takes up counting where the last left off. Each ‘detail’ is the same size (196 x 135 cm), the dimension of his studio door in Warsaw. All details have the same title, 1965/1-; the idea does not date although the artist has pledged his life to its execution: ‘All my work is a single thing, the description from number one to infinity. A single thing, a single life.’ (via)

Opalka died on August 6, 2011. The final number he painted was 5,607,249.

"Time as we live it and as we create it embodies our progressive disappearance,” Opalka wrote in an essay in 1987. “We are at the same time alive and in the face of death — that is the mystery of all living beings.”