Ocean Without a Shore – Bill Viola

“Originally commissioned for the 2007 Venice Biennale,Ocean Without a Shore was first shown in the 15th century Church of the Oratorio San Gallo, a short distance from the Piazza San Marco. Inspired by the writings of Senegalese poet Birago Diop, it takes its title from Andalusian Sufi mystic Ibn Arabi, who wrote, “The Self is an ocean without a shore. Gazing upon it has no beginning or end, in this world and the next.” Viola’s work expresses this sentient self and, bathing the viewer in a sensorium of light and sound, is a masterpiece that asks us to reflect upon fundamental ideas of love, hope, sorrow, anxiety, death, regeneration, and being.”
Quote sourced from http://withart.visitphilly.com/artworks/ocean-without-a-shore/

Bill Viola, Ocean Without a Shore, 2007, Video and sound installation, running time: approx. 90 minutes, PAFA, 2010.22

Since I came across this work I have watched the available online video clips multiple times. The incredible creation of an invisible threshold by the passing of bodies through a wall of water is otherworldly and magical. The work utilises flickering, grainy black and white footage on one side of the threshold, then as they pass through they become full-colour super high definition. The choice of video technique, the slo motion movement and the ephemerality of the water-wall threshold highlights the fragility of life and the fineness of the border between life and death, between one reality and another.

Link to video footage: http://youtu.be/eTakwOpWqG4

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3 thoughts on “Ocean Without a Shore – Bill Viola

    1. Yes! You can find more video footage of it on YouTube and the TateShots You Tube channel has a short interview with Bill Viola where he explains some of the technology he used to create the piece.

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