The Quintet of the Unseen, 2000 (production still)
Photo by Kira Perov

Bill Viola’s The Quintet of the Unseen is from Viola’s four-part ‘Quintet Series’ (the other three are Quintet of the Astonished, Remembrance and Silent) and is currently showing at Blain|Southern. It is a large-scale video work, imitating the composition of a Renaissance painting. Five actors stand close together. Initially their expressions are devoid of any emotion, then, gradually, as the cycle unfolds, the group is overcome with emotion. As this builds to a crescendo, they become overwhelmed and distressed. From such fervour they can only come down and by the end of the cycle each actor is emotionally spent.

Typical of other works by Viola, the 15mins 19secs long film runs in ultra-slow motion. This intensifies even the smallest nuances of emotion expressed, allowing you, the viewer, to dwell on the multi-layered complexity of feeling unfolding in front of you, thus creating a subjective, psychological space where time is suspended for both performer and viewer alike.

A ‘slow-art’ performance, if you like. A chance to properly immerse yourself in what’s happening in front of you and really savour it, rather than the usual dash through a gallery on a Saturday to tick another item off that inner list we sometimes allow ourselves to be ruled by.

21 Dering Street
London W1S 1AL

9th February – 26th March 2011

Words by Anna Bang


Bill Viola, Blain|Southern,