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Self portrait – Submerged

Bill Viola (New York 1951)

Plasma screen; stereophony
121.2x72.4x9 cm
1890 no. 10644

One of the greatest exponents of video art, Bill Viola began his long and fruitful career in none other than Florence, where between 1974 and 1976 he was technical director of Art/Tapes/22, one of the first European studios to produce art videos.

In the high-definition video, mounted on a vertical plasma screen, lasting about 11 minutes in slow motion, the artist appears lying on a river bed, his eyes closed and his expression relaxed. The water flows placidly over the figure, at times causing delicate movements of the shirt. The sound of the water, together with the artist's calm expression, as if asleep underwater, convey a feeling of calm and gentle harmony.

This self-portrait, as the Artist has stated, was inspired by an experience he had as a child, when he almost drowned during an excursion to the lake, not knowing how to swim. But in the memory, even many years later, the prevailing element is not the discomfort of the apnoea nor the fear of the risk taken, but the beauty and harmony of the underwater vision, the lights and colours experienced here.

It is certainly no coincidence that a work related to water was chosen for the Uffizi: when it first entered the collection, the video was temporarily displayed in one of the corridors of the Gallery, near the windows overlooking the Arno, where the dialogue between art and architecture, landscape and flowing water is spectacular and unique.

The Self-Portrait was donated by the artist to the Friends of the Uffizi on the occasion of the Association's twentieth year of activity, who in turn donated it to the museum in 2013.

Text by
Francesca Sborgi
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