Old Oak, 2005
14 x 25 inch screen
Bill Viola (b. 1951) is an internationally acclaimed American video artist whose works have been instrumental for more than thirty years in establishing video as a recognized and respected contemporary art form. Both in terms of technology and content, his art has advanced and broadened the potential and scope of the medium. The universality and abstract nature of his art appeals to a broad audience as he addresses collective human experiences such as birth, death and the unfurling of consciousness. Inspired by both Western and Eastern art and spiritual traditions, his works are often rooted in Christian mysticism, Zen Buddhism and or Islamic Sufism. Viola has exhibited his work extensively all over the world in renowned institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim and the Whitney Museum in New York, the National Gallery in London, Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome, and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and has received numerous awards for his achievements.
Old Oak is part of a series of videos Viola produced in 2005 for an adaptation of Richard Wagner’s 19th century opera Tristian Isolde. The artist conceived and executed the project in collaboration with theater director Peter Sellars, conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Esa-Pekka Salonen and the executive director of his studio, Kira Perov. The production was presented at the LA Philharmonic in 2004 and again at the National Opera Bastille in Paris in 2005. Viola’s videos, which differ in length, sound and screen size, served as the backdrop to the drama. In contrast to the theatrical performance delivered on stage, his videos acted as a transcendental supplement, devoid of narrative. Old Oak is a 30-minute single wide shot of a majestic tree filmed over a period of 12 hours, from dusk until dawn. The still image, which was sped up and reduced, begins with a black screen that slowly lightens until the glaringly brightness of dawn renders the display fully white.