Bill Viola

The City of Man


Artist / Artist group
Bill Viola
The City of Man
Edition / Serial number
Copy Number
video, installation, Video installation
Material / Technique
three-channel video, four-channel audio installation ; 3 projectors, 3 laserdiscs, 3 laserdisc players, 3 projection screens
Dimensions / Duration
Projection: 214 x 428 cm, installation dimensions variable
ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe

»The City of Man« consists of three large-format projection screens, which are arranged like the panels of a triptych and have wooden frames. The two outer screens are each half the width of the central screen.

Pictured on the central screen is a council meeting in a city hall. Twelve people are seated around a semi-circular table, and behind it the architecture of a meeting room with marble arches is visible. The lefthand screen shows a green landscape, with apartment buildings in the foreground, foothills of a mountain range in the background, and a busy road running through the entire landscape. The righthand screen shows a house ablaze during the night. The bright flames are in stark contrast to the buildings’ dark contours and the nocturnal sky; here and there one can see a jet of water, which is being used to battle the flames.

The three videos are played in an endless loop, and loudspeakers play the ambient sounds of the three locations.

The presentation of the videos in the form of a winged altarpiece suggests a biblical interpretation of the installation is called for: on the left, we see paradise; on the right hell; and in the center The Last Judgment. Bill Viola often utilizes religious motifs, and makes repeated references to paintings from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance to debate existential subjects such as birth, death, love, and spirituality.

Author: Hanna Jurisch

About the artist/s