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Bill Viola »

The Quintet of the Unseen

Exhibition: – 30 Mar 2003

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

280 Grove Avenue at the Boulevard
VI 23221-2466 Richmond



Sat-Wed 10-17, Thur-Fri 10-21

‘The Quintet of the Unseen’ depicts a group of five people seen up close and in extreme slow motion as they experience intense emotions: anger, sorrow, rapture, fear, and grief. Their emotional energy builds to an unbearable level, crests, then leaves the players drained, exhausted, and transformed in its wake. The Quintet is based on Viola’s research into representations of the Passions in Italian and Northern Renaissance art. Although no specific religious or mythological subject matter is inherent in the Quintet, references or stories inferred from the group’s actions reflect Viola’s belief in the universality of private and subjective human emotions. Viola recorded the Quintet using a high-speed 35mm film camera. When he transferred the footage to videotape, Viola extended the original action of approximately one minute to more than fifteen minutes, thereby accentuating each emotional nuance. By designing the installation as a rear projection, Viola underscored his reference to historical paintings: the translucent Plexiglas screen, surrounded by a frame, in essence becomes a painted surface on which the artist presents his timeless drama.