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Viola's Martyrs installed as 'altared' images at London's St Paul's

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Viola's Martyrs installed as 'altared' images at London's St Paul's

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London’ St. Paul’s Cathedral is home to a rather unusual new piece by veteran US video artist Bill Viola.

Located behind the high altar, ‘Martyrs’ is made up of four vertical plasma screens. Each depicts a person undergoing an ordeal caused by one of the four elements: earth, wind, fire and water.

Although installed in an Anglican cathedral, the works engage with a multinational audience, keeping with a spiritual environment that attracts people of all faiths, says Viola’s partner, Kira Perov: “That’s not just a Christian point of view or Islamic point of view or any religious point of view at all actually. It’s really something where the forces of nature take over and the force of nature is also death.”

It’s a slow motion piece. The intention is not only to slow down the action on screen, but for the viewer as well.

“We’re trying to slow people down,” says Bill Viola. “The world has gotten too fast, literally. I mean it is now, I believe, really out of control. And I think we have to be very careful. Τhat’s why there are so many people now who really are trying to practice yoga and meditation, and the Dalai Lama says that all the time.”

‘Martyrs’ is the first moving-image artwork to be held in a British church on a long-term basis. Another piece, entitled ‘Mary’, is expected to be ready in a year’s time.

Other artworks by Bill Viola are currently on display at London’s Tate Modern and at the Grand Palais in Paris.

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