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DIA exterior at night
DIA exterior at night

The Art of Cause and Effect on View at Detroit Institute of Arts - Action Reaction: Video Installations plays on laws of physics

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

June 16, 2009 (Detroit)—Five videos that focus on cause-and-effect relationships and show how video progressed as an art form are the subject of Action Reaction: Video Installations. The exhibition is on view at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) from July 3, 2009 to January 3, 2010 and is free with museum admission.

Anna Mendieta
Alma Silueta en Fuego (Soul Silhouette on Fire) and Anima, Silueta des Cohetes (Soul Silhouette of Firecrackers) are part of Ana Mendieta’s Silueta (Silhouette) series, in which she explores physical and spiritual connections with the earth.
      Mendieta creates human forms based on the outline of her own body and sets them on fire. She uses fire as a catalyst, referring to purification rituals of various traditions, including Santeria, an Afro-Cuban religion emphasizing spirits and nature.
      As flames consume them, the human forms are transformed into smoke, ash, embers, and gasses that dissolve into the earth and atmosphere. The emphasis is not on the disappearance of the human form, but on its merging with other elements such as the horizon, land, and air.

Bruce Nauman
Bruce Nauman’s video Bouncing in the Corner, Part I explores “in-betweeness.” Nauman allows the action of gravity to pull his body into a corner and he reacts by bouncing back to an upright position. He transforms what seems like a child’s sense of experimentation into a full-fledged endurance test, repeating the actions for an entire hour.
     Nauman uses video to record the spaces in between—between standing and leaning, between the corner and the middle of the room, and between control and letting go.

Bill Viola
In Nine Attempts to Achieve Immortality, Bill Viola shows himself from the shoulders up in a format resembling a marble portrait bust. Such busts are often made in stone to immortalize a person for eternity. Viola uses video instead. He mimics the stillness of a statue by holding his breath. Eventually, his body’s nervous system takes over, forcing him to take in oxygen. Viola, in turn, resists, repeating the cycle nine times. Which, then, is the action, and which is the reaction? Is Viola reacting to his body or is his body reacting to him?

Peter Fischli and David Weiss
In The Way Things Go Peter Fischli and David Weiss use tires, ladders, matches, soda and other seemingly random, everyday objects to create a grand performance of interplays between chemistry, physics and human ingenuity.
      The video starts with one simple action—pushing a roll of tape—that ignites a chain reaction. The roll hits a liquid-filled bottle that spills to ignite flames that move across a wire, and a lively sequence of actions and reactions continues for 59 minutes, ending with a tin bucket full of flames. The whimsy belies the rigorous science and dozens of experiments it took to create The Way Things Go.

Each video’s running time is between three minutes and one hour, and total viewing time for all five videos is approximately two hours.

Hours and Admission
10 a.m.–4 p.m. Wednesdays–Thursdays, 10 a.m.–10 p.m. Fridays, and 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Saturdays–Sundays. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for senior citizens, and $4 for ages 6-17. DIA members are admitted free. For more information, call (313) 833-7900 or visit


The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA),located at 5200 Woodward Avenue in Detroit, is one of the premier art museums in the United States and home to more than 60,000 works that comprise a multicultural survey of human creativity from ancient times through the 21st century. From the first van Gogh painting to enter a U.S. museum (Self Portrait, 1887), to Diego Rivera's world-renowned Detroit Industry murals (1932–33), the DIA's collection is known for its quality, range, and depth.

Programs are made possible with support from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the City of Detroit.

Contact: Pamela Marcil 313-833-7899