Memory Surfaces and Mental Prayers

1977, 29 min, color, sound

Memory Surfaces and Mental Prayers is a collection of works that address the desire to transcend the perceptual and cognitive structures of experience. Viola describes The Wheel of Becoming as concerning "the notion of the parallel nature of reality, that is, simultaneous events separated in space." A mandala-like form, divided into four quadrants, unifies four events by four individuals in four separate spaces. These alternately converge and separate through timed camera movements, coincident actions and common elements of the landscape.

The title of The Morning After the Night of Power refers to a passage of the Koran in which angels descend from the heavens to impart the divine inspiration to followers. The central image of the tape is a blue vase standing motionless on a table. This object is framed by a dramatic interplay of light, shadow and movement, which is registered by a fixed camera over an extended period of time. Writes Viola, "As the condensed stillness of pure duration becomes activity, events hover at the edge of awareness until a final culminating action of transcendent liberation."

Using a camera moving along a predetermined path to create the effect of a simulated zoom, Sweet Light refers to the seduction of illumination, focusing on the phototropic vision of a moth. Writes Viola, "A moth emerges from a discarded letter as the spirit of a dead thought and — after an attempted flight to freedom — an individual appears, is inexorably drawn into the source of light, and consumed."

Technical Assistance: Bobby Bielecki. Produced in association with the TV Lab at WNET/Thirteen, New York. Recorded at ZBS Media, Inc.


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