Bill Viola: Going Forth By Day

Bill Viola: Going Forth By Day


Exhibition Features Approximately 150 Works by 55 Contemporary Artists Working in Photography, Film, and Video

Going Forth By Day (2002), a major new commission created by Bill Viola for the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin, makes its North American premiere this fall at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. Viola's new five-part, projected digital image cycle comprises the exhibition Bill Viola: Going Forth By Day, opening at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum on September 21, 2002, and on view in New York through January 12, 2003.

This exhibition is made possible by Deutsche Bank.

"Bill Viola's Going Forth By Day is an extraordinary achievement," noted Director Thomas Krens. "Bill has created a twenty-first century fresco, an aesthetic text that, like the work of the great artists of the Renaissance, transforms how we see and imagine the world. We are extremely proud to present this monumental series by Bill Viola."

The exhibition was organized by John G. Hanhardt, Senior Curator of Film and Media Arts, with Maria-Christina Villaseñor, Associate Curator of Film and Media Arts, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. The exhibition is installed in the museum's seventh-floor Annex gallery.

Bill Viola has been a pioneer in the use of video and the exploration of the moving image, creating single-channel videotapes, installations, and a range of artworks that reflect his deep engagement with art history, spirituality, and conceptual, as well as perceptual, issues. Going Forth By Day explores themes of human existence: individuality, society, birth, death, rebirth. The work is experienced architecturally, with all five image-sequences playing simultaneously in one large gallery. To enter the space, visitors literally step into the light of the first image. Once inside, they stand at the center of an image-sound world with projections on every wall. The story told by each panel is embedded within the larger narrative cycle of the room. Viewers are free to move around the space and watch each panel individually or to stand back and experience the piece as a whole.

The five image sequences are each approximately thirty-five minutes in length and play simultaneously on continuous loops. Sound from each panel mixes freely with the space, creating an overall acoustic ambience. The images are projected directly onto the walls—without screens or framed supports—as in Italian Renaissance frescoes, where the paint was applied directly onto the wet plaster surface of the walls. The title of the work derives from a literal translation of the title of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, "The Book of Going Forth by Day"—a guide for the soul once it is freed from the darkness of the body to finally "go forth by the light of day." Exhibition curator John G. Hanhardt states, "Together, the suite of works serves to create an epic articulation of the passage of nature's cycles and offers mythic reflections on the temporal flow of birth and regeneration."

As the viewer passes through the entryway, he/she will walk through "Fire Birth," a large image of a body submerged in flaming red water, an allusion to the world ending in fire and beginning in water. On the left wall of the gallery, the panel "The Path" is projected, a long, panoramic moving image of individuals walking through a wooded environment; a flow of humanity engaged in a never ending journey. The facing wall features the panel "The Deluge," which depicts the façade of a building with people fleeing a deluge of water that bursts out of the building. On the right gallery wall is the panel "The Voyage," which suggests a narrative of passage, as a dying old man in a house overlooking a large body of water, has a boat prepared to depart for the far shore. The final panel, "First Light," shows a landscape at dawn with a group of rescue workers, who, exhausted by their efforts to save lives after a catastrophe, finally succumb to sleep; as they sleep, a man silently rises out from the water into the heavens.

Viola's new installation is a highly complex project shot on state-of-the-art, High Definition Video technology, and involved the use of a variety of locations for recording, an extremely high level of cinematic production values, and the technical expertise needed to create the individual panels with sophisticated digital processing and post-production editing. The resulting installation reflects Viola's creation of a fully realized image world, an associative narrative conveyed through the panels, each functioning as a narrative element within an epic whole.

Bill Viola studied at Syracuse University in the early 1970s, where his exploration with electronic media led him to produce works of sound art as well as video installation. His early contact with Nam June Paik, David Tudor, and other influential sound and video artists encouraged him to continue working with video, and he went on to create numerous single channel works and installations both in the United States and abroad. He has been featured in single-artist and group exhibitions internationally, represented the U.S. in the 1995 Venice Biennale, and from 1997-2000 was the subject of a major touring retrospective organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art.

The works presented in Bill Viola: Going Forth By Day were created as part of Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin's ongoing program whereby new works by contemporary artists are commissioned by and exhibited at the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin, and subsequently enter its permanent collection. This program has made Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin unique within the arts community. In addition to Viola, artists who have created new works as part of this program include: Jeff Koons, James Rosenquist, Andreas Slominski, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Lawrence Weiner and Rachel Whiteread.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with detailed documentation of the creation of Going Forth By Day. The catalogue includes an interview with the artist and preface by exhibition curator John G. Hanhardt. Kira Perov served as Editorial Director. Published by the Guggenheim Museum and distributed by Harry N. Abrams, Inc., the book is available for $45.00.

July 26, 2002

For Press Information:
Betsy Ennis/Jennifer Russo, Public Affairs
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Telephone: (212) 423-3842 or (212) 423-3840
Telefax: (212) 966-0924

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