Bill Viola - Ocean Without a Shore

Ocean Without a Shore

Inspired by the words of the Senegalese poet Birago Diop, Ocean Without a Shore takes its title from the Andalusian Sufi mystic Ibn Arabi (1165–1240), who wrote:

“The Self is an ocean without a shore. Gazing upon it has no beginning or end, in this world and the next.”

The video sequence presents 24 people who gradually and individually blur together within a dark field and slowly start to appear in view, moving from the dark into the light. As a figure comes closer, it becomes more solid and tangible until it crosses an invisible threshold and passes into the physical world. This physical threshold, through which the figures pass, is a sheet of cascading water. Crossing the threshold is an intense moment of infinite feeling and acute physical awareness. At that moment, all beings can touch their real nature, equal parts material and essence. However, once incarnate, these beings must eventually leave their mortal existence and return to the vacuum from whence they came.

The work combines admiration for the figuration and realism traditions in Western art with new, avant-garde works, a permanent feature in much of Bill Viola’s work.