Fire Woman and Tristan’s Ascension

This is a postscript to yesterday’s comments about Bill Viola… He’s one of the featured artists at the Melbourne Festival this year, so there is a feast of Viola installations around the city. One day, if you catch me at a very weak moment, i might tell you about my conversation with him at the ACMI bar…

Actually, no I won’t.

I went to see Fire Woman and Tristan’s Ascension at St Carthage’s in Parkville last night. It was pretty late when I got there – i was on my way home from a meeting that had gone forever – so I only saw them run through twice. In retrospect, that was probably a good thing – after the third time I would have been a sobbing mess on the altar.


Bill Viola Fire Woman 2005 (detail), video/sound installation. Photo: Kira Perov

Fire Woman is exquisitely beautiful, but it was Tristan’s Ascension that untangled me – or maybe tangled me in it. I’m trying to make sense of the different responses I had to them. Perhaps it’s that water is always my undoing, or that fire demands the watcher keeps their distance…

St Carthage’s is at 123 Royal Parade. The space is open between 7.30 and 10pm until Saturday night, with last entry at 9.30pm. It’s free.
And Radio National on Sunday [6pm ESDT] is broadcasting the conversation that Blythe and i heard a couple of weeks ago – Rachael Kohn and Bill Viola in conversation.

Yesterday was a day for lovely things. I got a beautiful gift from a woman who came to the workshop I was part of a few weeks ago in Traralgon. It’s a map of the communities who make up that presbytery, which she has hand stitched together. Could you imagine a better gift? And Si Smith sent over a set of his Rage and Despair prints – a series of 22 triptychs that tell the story of Job. They are exquisite, too real to look at all at once, too beautiful to look away. They make one want to be human.

I keep thinking I need to use less superlatives, but then I keep encountering things that need them…