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Bill Viola's Martyrs and Mary

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St. Paul's Cathedral

London

EC4M 8AD

United Kingdom

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Martyrs (Earth, Air, Fire, Water), a new video work by Bill Viola, the American artist, was installed in St Paul’s in 2014, and last year it was joined by a companion work, Mary. The commission follows the great historical tradition of commissioning art from contemporary artists to illuminate the great themes and stories of Christianity afresh for worshippers in their own day, and which has resulted in a priceless heritage of art around the world. Yet for some it proved controversial.

Mark Oakley, who was intimately involved in the commissioning of both works, says that Viola uses the medium – video – that mass-controls us, and subverts it to explore the human condition and to encounter the ‘unseen’, in a way that allows for a return of the soul. In this afternoon he will reflect on his experience of the commissioning process, on the works themselves and their impact in the cathedral, and what challenge and insights they might offer us.

Mark Oakley is Canon Chancellor at St Paul’s Cathedral, overseeing the learning and arts programmes, and a visiting lecturer in the Theology and Religious Studies Department at King’s College London. His latest book, The Splash of Words: Believing in Poetry, was published last year by Canterbury Press.

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St. Paul's Cathedral

London

EC4M 8AD

United Kingdom

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