Bill Viola: Martyrs–Earth, Air, Fire, and Water
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“Martyrs” is overtly rooted in art historical and religious iconography. Viola said: “The Greek word for martyr originally meant ‘witness.’ In today’s world, the mass media turns us all into witnesses to the suffering of others. The martyrs’ past lives of action can help illuminate our modern lives of inaction. They also exemplify the human capacity to bear pain, hardship, and even death in order to remain faithful to their values, beliefs, and principles. This piece represents ideas of action, fortitude, perseverance, endurance, and sacrifice.”
John G. Hanhardt, MAG’s consulting senior curator of media art, is renowned as an expert in the work of Viola. According to Hanhardt, “Bill is a pioneer of the video medium and one of the most important artists in the world today.” He continues, “To be able to bring one of his most extraordinary works to Rochester is a privilege and an honor.”
Hanhardt recently wrote a monograph on the artist, published by Thames and Hudson (2015), edited by Kira Perov.
Photo by Kira Perov.