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Bill Viola’s Ocean without a shore

“The Self is an ocean without a shore.

Gazing upon it has no beginning or end,

in this world and the next.” Ibn al’Arabi (1165-1240)

BILL VIOLA: OCEAN WITHOUT A SHORE

Bill Viola’s Ocean without a shore, which takes its title from the Andalucian Sufi mystic Ibn Arabi (1165–1240), is about the threshold between life and death or, as the artist has commented: ‘the presence of the dead in our lives’. The installation is emblematic of Viola’s considered attention to human beings undergoing various states of transformation and renewal. In the installation three video screens become surfaces for the manifestation of images of the dead attempting to re-enter our world. According to Viola’s press statement for the Venice Biennale:

Bill Viola

In 2007, Viola was invited back to the 52nd Venice Biennale to present an installation called “Ocean without a Shore,” which was seen by over 60,000 viewers throughout its duration. In this piece, exposed in the little but perfectly fitted Church of San Gallo, Viola is exploring life and death. The experiment consists of people standing in the foreground with nothing but black behind them. Each of them seem to produce gallons of water from themselves as if they were waterfalls. The water comes gushing out of their bodies as if they are being reborn. The very last individual is an elderly man who actually glows a supernatural green while dozens of gallons of water erupts from his body. There are 2 individuals in the middle of the piece who only seem to trickle water, while all the others produce a waterfall of water (Year 2008). Viola says that this piece is about how the dead are undead; that once they get through the water they are conscious again.

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