HOD – Update: change of artist and keywork selection (Murmur whispers by Chevalvert & 2Roq)

< Before this, I selected Bill Viola as the artist to review in my hyperessay but then I realised that it was hard to place his work in any category of Cybernetics/Behavioural Art, Hypermedia or Immersion. Although yes, it can sort of be placed under ‘Immersion’, however, the question of whether it still encompasses the concept of behavioural art makes it a bit tricky to be reviewed. And here’s why:

  •  The works of Bill Viola only has his own point of view, meaning his own interpretation to be given to the audience. It’s personal, it is not up for open interpretation as he purposely creates them with meaning (and that is revolving the spiritual aspect part that he wants his viewers to see).
  • It’s not meant for those viewers/audiences to participate and change the artwork. But only for the audience to immerse in it.
  • His artwork, which in this case a film-projection/installation, are never changing unlike John Cage’s Variation V. It’s simply a video hence recorded and an artwork that is not able to change.
  • And even though they are immersing in it, meaning they do get emotional and think about its concepts, which is already 2 out of the 3 subsets of what makes a work a ‘Behavioural Art’ (physical, emotional, conceptual), it still doesn’t make his works a behavioural artwork (because of the very reasons above).

< I needed to rethink and ask myself why is this particular artist related to the idea of interactivity.

Which he is not. In order for there to be interactivity, there needs to be a relationship between the artist, the artefact and the audience. After reading the Behaviourist Art article by Roy Ashcott, we know that an artwork has to have the ‘feedback loop’ – the audience’s participation (they are to be involved in the decision-making of how the work will turn out), where the artist is no longer the dominant source of the artwork and the artwork is in perpetual state of transition because of both the artist and audience.

< Hence, I decided to pick a different artist and artwork. The ‘Murmur whispers’ (2015) is an installation + live performance artwork created by visual design studio named Chevalvert and studio 2Roqs for music group ALB. It was “developed with OpenFrameworks / LED Strip / Javascript” which shows that programming is needed to produce light from sound waves emitted from people and their surroundings. It is a project of ‘Murmur’ artwork (that was also produced by Chevalvert) that has recently been adapted to a live performance within the renowned French music event. Seen below is a screencap of the ‘Murmur whispers’ performance work.

The ‘Murmur whispers’ — an interactive, performance show for music group ALB

A little background knowledge on the ‘Murmur’ project to know exactly what this whole artwork is about:

Murmur is an architectural prosthesis that enables communication between passers-by and the wall on which it is connected. “The installation simulates the movement of sound waves, building a luminous bridge between the physical and the virtual worlds.” There is a magical effect, a mystery in the way that sound waves move. Murmur focuses on this movement, thus creating an unconventional dialogue between the public and the wall. Visual design, object design, sound design and a magical touch of programming is involved to create this.

The artwork comes to life when passers-by participate simply by making a sound, murmuring into the “Echo Chamber” (the cone object). It will turn sound waves into light waves simply by having the sound waves emitted through it and then projected onto the wall.

So the artist, studio Chevalvert, made use of this and did a music improvisation as well (as seen below).

The music improvisations above can be seen in the ‘Murmur whispers’ live performance where they used instruments and their voices to make sounds/music. Chevalvert did collaborations to come up with ‘Murmur whispers’. The artistic approach of the project, it’s production, and the development is a collaboration with the studio 2Roqs that helps with the programming aspect.

Whereas the staging for the ‘Murmur whispers’ live performance is the product of a close collaboration between the music group ALB (deezer.com/artist/467584) and Chevalvert themselves. Chevalvert and 2Roqs, in this case, are the artists behind the work and we can say that the artefact behind their work is the ALB music group – how without them interacting with the “Echo Chamber” (the cone-looking object that collects the murmurs of the public and turns sound waves into light waves), the live performance wouldn’t be interactive.



Murmur whispers





HOD – Bill Viola’s “Fire Woman” and “Tristan’s Ascension”

Here I will be reviewing two artworks as they are both interconnected and the concept behind them are related to each other.

Fire Woman, 2005 and Tristan’s Ascension (The Sound of a Mountain Under a Waterfall), 2005 are both a large-scale projection (larger than life itself) that is paired in time and placed in a darkened St Saviour’s church. Both these installations provide us, viewers, with mesmerising images of catharsis and ascension accompanied by resonating sound.  Viola makes use of the fluid, fleeting nature of moving images behind videos as a means to explore life and death.

Image obtained from http://www.theblogazine.com/2014/03/bill-viola-a-soul-keeper/


Both these hot and cool artworks originated in the ‘Tristan und Isolde’ opera in 2005 that he collaborated with Richard Wagner, where he created the video-sets. It was about a tragic love story about two people who were meant to be together but could not consummate their love on Earth, hence had to leave their bodies to do so and meet each other in the afterlife. Viola drew out the material from this opera to create the above individual artworks. [you can view the trailer of the ‘Tristan und Isolde’ opera that Viola collaborated with to have a better look at the ‘material’ he drew out for his works at the very end]

Hence why there is a theme of life and death present in his artworks of the Fire Woman and Tristan’s Ascension. Out of the four primordial elements (air, water, fire, earth), Viola uses primarily fire and water as part of his exploration of the spiritual theme. They are the essential key factors for his works as it easily contributes to the emotional involvement of the audience (immersion). With one look into both videos (shown above), it is surreal and dreamlike but at the same time, they seem at once contemporary and timeless. It is like a reflection of human experiences – how we think of dreams, nightmares, and reality, of what’s to come afterlife or perhaps for the people that almost experienced death or already did but got brought back to life.

Fire Woman depicts ‘an image seen in the mind’s eye of a dying man’, while Tristan’s Ascension portrays ‘the ascent of the soul in the space after death’. Viola drew their inspiration from elemental transformations described in ‘The Tibetan Book of The Dead’.  It is a book that “acts as a guide for the dead during the state that intervenes in death and the next rebirth”. The actual title is also known as ‘The Bardo Thodol’ where ‘Bardo’ (in Tibetan Buddhism) means a state of existence between death and rebirth, varying in length according to a person’s conduct in life and manner of, or age at, death. This guide is recited to a recently deceased person, while they are in the state between death and reincarnation, in order for them to recognize the nature of their mind and attain liberation from the cycle of rebirth. We see those elements especially in these artworks of Bill Viola.

[Description of artworks]:

Fire Woman – the image of a silhouetted woman standing in front of a wall of flames. She walks forward towards us viewers, raises her arms in what looks like a Christ sign and falls. We as viewers didn’t realise it until then that she was falling into a pool of water. And that what we are seeing is “a reflection in a surface of a pool and that the entire image is a reflection, including the fire”. It is astonishingly amazing how he makes use of video technology to manipulate us into thinking it’s real. So the entire time it was a question of what’s real and what’s not. In this case, the fire wasn’t real and it was all just a reflection. You can see this from what goes on after the fall – she falls into her own reflection and disappears below the surface, the flame dies down and the flame turns into this beautiful cooling-blue space. (as seen below)

Image obtained from http://www.guiding-architects.net/bill-viola-hamburg-monumental-installations/
Image obtained from https://artblart.com/tag/bill-viola-fire-woman/
Image obtained from http://lesmerveillesdedanielle.blogspot.com/2014/03/bill-viola-au-grand-palais.html

Tristan’s Ascension – the image of a man lying on a slab, and we as the viewers, don’t know if he’s dead but he is portrayed as he is. Little water droplets appear and we realise that it’s floating, soon the amount of the water increases dramatically. We see the man come to life by the force of water. As the water goes up, he goes up as well and we do not see his body anymore – like as if he has descended to heaven. (as seen below)

Image obtained from http://www.guiding-architects.net/bill-viola-hamburg-monumental-installations/
Image obtained from https://artblart.com/tag/bill-viola-fire-woman/

(The above trailer is obtained from https://www.operadeparis.fr/en/season-18-19/opera/tristan-und-isolde)


“Using the inner language of subjective thoughts and collective memories, his videos communicate to a wide audience, allowing viewers to experience the work directly, and in their own personal way.” – Text from the Melbourne International Arts Festival website






Bill Viola’s Moving Void





HOD – Artist Selection: Bill Viola

About Bill Viola

Image obtained from https://unpointculture.com/2014/03/12/sculptez-du-temps-bill-viola-sexpose-au-grand-palais/
Image obtained from https://hyperallergic.com/114411/bill-violas-moving-void/
Image obtained from https://www.apollo-magazine.com/bill-viola-grand-palais/

Bill Viola is one of the pioneers of video art or referred to as “the Rembrandt of the video age”. His works of art are in large-scale, often includes a spiritual element in them as well. Topics like “Zen Buddhism, Islamic Sufism, and Christian mysticism underpinning themes considered universal: birth, death, love, sex, grief, and redemption” revolves around his works. He makes use of this technological advancement in this day and age to do experimental video art (with a blend of sound in them, including avant-garde music performance) and create over 150 works over the last 40 years. He ensures that the installations of his video art are placed in an environment that is highly immersive for the viewers so as to fully engage with the works.