Chott-El-Djerid (Portrait in Light and Heat), 1980

NTSC, sound, colour

Taking a natural physical phenomenon, the mirage as an optical effect specific to hot countries, as his starting point, inverting distant objects as if they were reflected in a pool of water, Bill Viola works with this scientific hypothesis in the very matter of each image and each instant of vision, making this objective "lie" a subjective truth. captures intermediate states, fragile delimitations and uncertain definitions between abstraction and realism. The Chott El-djerid is a dried-out salt lake in the Sahara in southern Tunisia., a place which stretches away to infinity, where mirages occur, usually in the midday sun. The intense heat of the desert manipulates, bending and spreading the rays of the sun to such an extent that you can see things and beings that do not exist, phantom images. In this landscape of illusion and dazzle, the enigma comes from the thickness and opacity of the representation. Through the vibration of the hot air, we discover swaying trucks, silhouettes like quivering specters, a town, a fleeing world. Trees and sand dunes sprout from the ground; mountain ridges and isolated houses appear in outline and then disappear in this fluid atmosphere. Sometimes the images of the desert are contrasted with colder pictures of the prairies in winter (in Illinois, USA, and in Saskatchewan, Canada). This other climate and landscape produce the same feeling of disorientation and strangeness. Bill Viola invites us to witness an exercise in transcription and incessant redefinition of the image which itself is constantly changing and drawing on new elements. He invites us on a journey beyond the visible and the intelligible, to break this membrane of heat and to reach within ourselves so that we can better understand such apparitions as images that have burst forth from ancient legends. Crossing and travelling through the image, the scene and the drama.

Stéphanie Moisdon