Bill Viola at Auckland Castle


Project Info


  • Bill Viola


  • Auckland Castle
  • The Auckland Project

An exhibition by Bill Viola at Auckland Castle, County Durham examined the meaning and representation of belief from prehistory to the present day.

This was the first in a series of reflections on the meaning of faith located within the sacred space of St. Peter’s Chapel, that offered the public an intimate experience of Viola’s work.

The exhibition marked a significant return for Viola to the North East of England. His long association with the region traced back to his seminal work The Messenger, which premiered in Durham Cathedral in 1996. The exhibition was followed by a major solo exhibition of Viola’s work at Yorkshire Sculpture Park in October 2015.

“Contemporary art and religion almost always intuitively find themselves at odds. Under the mystical guidance of Bill Viola, however, the two worlds seem to collide with impossibly gripping effect. In his latest show, the American video artist returns to the north east of England, where visitors to Auckland Castle in County Durham can find faith (or denounce it) through Viola’s haunting digital altarpiece.” – review by Jessica Klingelfuss for Wallpaper*

Read a review of the exhibition by Mark Brown on the Guardian.

Earth, Martyr, Air, Martyr, Fire Martyr, and Water Martyr was exhibited at Auckland Castle from 12 June –  26 October 2015

Positioned high above the meandering River Wear, Auckland Castle was the seat of the Prince Bishops of Durham, a lineage of incredibly powerful men. They were given exceptional powers by the Norman kings of England, as well as the Church, and governed vast swathes of North East England.

Auckland Castle is one of the best-preserved bishops’ palaces in the whole of Europe and is at the centre of The Auckland Project. The Castle recently reopened after undergoing major conservation work, which has transformed its state rooms to their original Georgian Gothic splendour, as designed by the renowned English architect James Wyatt.

The Artist

Bill Viola (b.1951) has been instrumental in the establishment of video as a vital form of contemporary art, and in so doing has helped to greatly expand its scope in terms of technology, content, and historical reach. For 40 years he has created videotapes, architectural video installations, sound environments, electronic music performances, flat panel video pieces, and works for television broadcast. Viola’s video installations—total environments that envelop the viewer in image and sound—employ state-of-the-art technologies and are distinguished by their precision and direct simplicity. They are shown in museums and galleries worldwide and are found in many distinguished collections.