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23.12.04

More on Viola's Tristan

I have been following the premiere and critical reception of the new Tristan und Isolde, in concert performances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic now and planned for a fully staged production in Paris, and the video sequence created for it by artist Bill Viola (see my posts on December 1, December 10, and December 18). Well, Tyler Green has weighed in on this interesting artistic collaboration in his frank and perceptive way, which is why we all read his blog every day (December 22 post at Modern Art Notes). Tyler considers the "Tristan" video along with another recent Viola work at the Whitney:

The most problematic of the two productions is "Tristan." Viola's visuals are so trite, so predictable, that "The Tristan Project" could be an infomercial selling a CD of lite rock hits from the '80's. Beyond the clichés is plenty of other borrowed imagery. For "Tristan," Viola borrowed from himself (the opening sequence of Act II is strikingly similar to Viola's own forest scene in 2001's "Going Forth By Day"), and from feature films. (The grainy hand-held-camera-scanning-through-the-dark-forest scenes are right out of the film "The Blair Witch Project.")
As in the other reviews I have read, Tyler makes clear that "every other element of the production succeeded" but that Viola's work took the focus away from the music:
While the Walt Disney Concert Hall is the home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, this was essentially a Bill Viola gallery opening at a Frank Gehry-designed museum. (The singers and the orchestra players all knew that this production was all about Viola – they frequently looked up and watched Viola's video as they waited their turn to perform.)
As usual, great observations. While you are at Modern Art Notes you should also read Tyler's personal tribute to artist Agnes Martin, who died last week.

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