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What Is Not and That Which Is
Video/sound installation: seven channels of color video rear-projected onto seven miniature screens in small, darkened room, seven steel armatures extend in a row from wall supporting screens and projectors and seven audio channels monitored through the projectors 12 x 18 x 17 ft 3.7 x 5.5 x 5.2 m
Dimensions: Variable dimensions
What Is Not and That Which Is is a video installation consisting of seven identical pieces supporting projectors and small screens in such a way that seven back projected images appear aligned on a wall. Each of the projectors shows a different video, whose sound is emitted by the same apparatus. All the videos are fixed shots. Water is an element that appears repeatedly in many of them as a jet gushing out into a drain, water in which we see someone sinking into the depths; or the sea, lashed up by a storm into huge waves breaking on the coast. But among those images there is one that stands out. It is a black and white image in which we see Viola himself eating a leisurely meal seated at a round table. His presence is not so much an autobiographical expression as the representation of a subject, which could be anyone, in an everyday scene. That representation of a relaxed subject eating is at the centre of the composition; to left and right the six other images that make up the work are arranged. It is therefore the central figure and the one that organises the piece. Viola uses video and creates a video installation, but the technique he follows is something like collage. If in film editing the images are organised according to a narrative continuity, in What Is Not and That Which Is the different images and shots live side by side at the same time. A common time which, like a horizontal cut, reflects the unity between things, and which ends up by composing a kind of intense portrait of the subject: a portrait that enables him to represent the unrepresentable, dreams or the unconscious. Viola is interested in Eastern philosophy and has been influenced by it, in such a way that in his works he has tried to represent the relations between the personal reality of the individual and the world. In What Is Not and That Which Is those six images which refer to the passage of time, fragility and the forces of nature are related to the central image, structuring a portrait of an inner state of existence. Video provides Viola with the possibility of tracing the relationship between the part and the whole or the individual and the world, because it is capable of making the invisible visible, both through collage and the editing of images which help to develop open, complex readings of the work and because it is an apparatus which makes it possible to capture images of the world and process them afterwards. In that processing, Viola alters the everyday structures of perception and shows the different planes of reality.