Video art de­but in St Paul’s

The Church of England - - News -

TWO VIDEO-AR T AL­TAR pieces for St Paul’s Cathe­dral in­stalled and seen for the first time by the pub­lic on 21 May ar e at­tract­ing a good deal of at­ten­tion and com­ment.

The work of the Amer­i­can ar tist, Bill Vi­ola, this is the first time mov­ing im­ages have been given a per ma­nent place in a ma­jor cathe­dral al­though in the past Vi­ola’s work has been shown in Dur ham Cathe­dral.

The de­ci­sion to in­stall the ‘The Mar­tyrs’ comes af­ter a long cam­paign by sup­por ters of the ar tist, in­clud­ing the di­rec­tors of some of Bri­tain’s most im­por­tant gal­leries. There are four ver tical plasma dis­plays mounted on a Sir Nor­man Fos­ter cast car­bon steel stand dis­play­ing Ear th, Air , Fir e, and Wa­ter.

Mr Vi­ola said a num­ber of se­nior people in the church had op­posed the de­ci­sion to dis­play the videos but Canon Mark Oak­ley, canon Chan­cel­lor of St Paul’s, pointed out that with any at­tempt to put some­thing con­tem­po­rar y in a his­toric place was al­ways go­ing to lead to op­po­si­tion.

He said that: “Good r eli­gion, like good art, seeks to ques­tion an­swers more than an­swer ques­tions.

“By tak­ing the 21st medium of film that so contr ols our mass cul­ture to­day in so many ways, by slow­ing it down her e and deep­en­ing per­cep­tion, that contr ol is un­rav­elled and we ar e left look at our­selves,” he said.

Vi­ola said that for tu­nately no one had asked him if he was str ongly Chris­tian or the project might have come to a halt. “But this is not the Vat­i­can,” he com­mented. “These are Angli­cans. They are a lit­tle looser.”

Dur­ing the 1970s V iola spent 18 months in Ja­pan si­mul­ta­ne­ously study­ing Zen Bud­dhism and video tech­nol­ogy. He thinks his works would be at home in a Bud­dhist tem­ple or a Hindu shrine as well as a church.

Carr ying on his aim of find­ing fr esh imager y for uni­ver­sal sub­jects, V iola plans to give St Paul’s a com­pan­ion piece next year en­ti­tled ‘Mar y’. ‘Mar tyrs’ has been placed be­hind the high al­tar in the south quire aisle next to the Amer­i­can Me­mo­rial chapel and about the tomb where Sir Christo­pher Wren is buried. It has at­tracted wide­spread at­ten­tion in the na­tional press and won a great deal of praise.

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