Bill Viola: Quintet of the Unseen at Blain Southern, London

Five people look out, time moves slowly, the camera stays fixed, slowly they react to some horror, emote and return to their neutral poses. That’s it. So simple. Quintet of the Unseen, which dates from 2000, is one of four (obviously) video pieces by Bill Viola that explore similar notions of movement, interaction and the face of emotion. There’s a renaissance art feel to the poses and the work does draw you in. Having entered to find the gallery staff loudly discussing their lunch arrangements it was nice to find that this piece was engrossing enough to drown them out which isn’t bad going for a work in which nothing tangible happens. Possible interactions come and go, movements are subtle, expressions ebb and flow …

There are some YouTube excerpts of equivalent pieces but they seem to be speeded up and in any case this is a work that demands to be seen in the secular church of an art gallery: a darkened room and a focus only on what is occuring on a large screen. Although lunch time is probably best avoided.


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