Foster and Partners, Bill Viola
St Paul’s Cathedral, London, 2014
Sand-blasted and painted steel
The installation by the video artist Bill Viola inside the South Quire Aisle of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London is the first case in Great Britain of a permanent work of this type inside a place of worship. The theme of Martyrs is developed by the artist in four vertical videos contained in an essential steel structure designed by Foster and Partners and made by Marzorati Ronchetti. Each framed plasma screen is for one of the natural elements: Earth, Air, Fire, Water. The elements in the four videos wrap four human figures that are assaulted and gradually overwhelmed by the specific natural forces. The theme of reference of the work is developed in a dramatic, explicit way. Viola, referencing the original meaning of the Greek term martyr (witness), explains in his work that martyrs embody the human capacity to bear pain, suffering and even death while remaining faithful to their values, their beliefs and principles, as heroes of past and present time.