Bill Viola: Ascension
March 6 – August 11, 2013
A recent acquisition for the museum, Bill Viola’s Ascension (2000) debuts at the museum to coincide with Burst of Light: Caravaggio and His Legacy. Although separated by hundreds of years, Caravaggio and Viola share the use of strong lighting effects to dramatically express spiritual subject matter. In Ascension, viewed from underwater, a figure violently crashes into a still body of water and hovers in cruciform. Lit by horizontal beams of blue light, the lifeless form slowly rises to the surface before sinking out of view. Viola, a pioneer in the field of video art and a longstanding leader in contemporary art, explores the possibilities of the video medium as an avenue to self-knowledge. Focusing on universal human experiences—birth, death, grief, consciousness—Viola’s work is rooted in both Eastern and Western art as well as spiritual traditions, including Zen Buddhism, Islamic Sufism, and Christian mysticism. A two-minute clip of Ascension may be viewed above.