The Passing

The best experimental work I’ve seen in ages, Bill Viola’s hour-long video (1991), shot in ravishing black and white, is like a string of epiphanies generated by lush and ambiguous encounters between the natural world (basically the American southwest) and the world of dreams and sleep. The minimal stereo sound track consists chiefly of Viola’s own breathing while he sleeps and the ticking of a clock; the haunting images encompass the death of Viola’s mother and the birth of his children as well as a good many surreal events that transpire underwater and in slow motion. If I had to come up with parallels, it would be necessary to grope in contrary directionsto the works of Stan Brakhage on the one hand and to Eraserhead on the other. But the musical pulse and flow of the images and their mesmerizing beauty throughout don’t deserve cross-referencesthey sing and vibrate with maximal intensity on their own. (JR)

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