Bill Viola

Bill Viola

Infobox Artist
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name = Bill Viola

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birthdate = birth date|1951|01|25|mf=y
location = NewYork
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nationality = American
field = Video Art, Electronic Art
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Bill Viola (born America, 1951) is a contemporary video artist. With a career spanning 35 years his significant contribution to the genre of video art is today widely acknowledged on the international stage.


Bill Viola was born on January 25, 1951 and grew up in Queens, New York, and Westbury, New York. He attended P.S. 20 in Flushing, where he was Captain of the TV Squad, and went on to Syracuse University, where he studied in the Experimental Studios of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, including the Synapse experimental program, which evolved into HillTV. In 1973 he graduated from Syracuse with a Bachelor in Fine Arts. His first job on graduation was as a video technician at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse. From 1973 to 1980 he studied and performed with composer David Tudor in the new music group "Rainforest" (later called "Composers Inside Electronics"). From 1974-1976 Viola worked as technical director at Art/Tapes/22, a pioneering video studio in Florence, Italy where he encountered video artists Nam June Paik, Bruce Nauman, and Vito Acconci. From 1976-1983 he was artist-in-residence at WNET Thirteen Television Laboratory in New York. In 1976 and 1977 he travelled to the Solomon Islands, Java, Indonesia to record traditional performing arts.

In 1977 Viola was invited to show work at La Trobe University (Melbourne, Australia) by cultural arts director Kira Perov. Viola and Perov later married, beginning an important lifelong collaboration in working and travelling together. In 1980, they lived in Japan for a year and a half on a Japan/U.S. cultural exchange fellowship where they studied Buddhism with Zen Master Daien Tanaka. During this time Viola was also artist-in-residence at Sony Corporation's Atsugi Laboratories.

In 1983 became an instructor in Advanced Video, California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, California. In 1995 Viola represented the United States at the 46th Venice Biennale, for which he produced a series of works "Buried Secrets", including one of his best know works "The Greeting", a contemporary interpretation of Pontormo's "The Visitation". In 1997 a major retrospective of 25 years of Bill Viola's work was organised and internationally toured by the Whitney Museum of American Art.

In 1998 he was Getty Scholar-in-residence at the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles [] . Viola was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, in 2000. In 2002, Viola completed "Going Forth By Day", a digital “fresco” cycle in High-Definition video, commissioned by the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin and the Guggenheim Museum, New York. In 2003,"The Passions" was exhibited in Los Angeles, London, Madrid and Canberra. This was a major collection of Viola's emotionally charged slow motion works inspired by traditions within Renaissance devotional painting.

In 2004 Viola began work on a new production of Richard Wagner’s opera "Tristan und Isolde", a collaboration with director Peter Sellars, conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen and executive producer Kira Perov. The opera was premiered at the Opéra National de Paris in 2005 and Viola's video work was subsequently shown as "LOVE/DEATH The Tristan Project" at the Haunch of Venison Gallery and St Olave's School, London, in 2006.During 2007, the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporaneo in Sevilla, organized an exhibition at the Palace of Charles V in la Alhambra- Granada- in which Viola's work dialogues with the Fine Arts Collection of the museum.

The books Viola kept at his bedside table as of June 2007 were a book on Chinese Sung Dynasty poetry, a biography on the life of Buddha, a magazine, a technical journal of new high definition video cameras (which he always keeps with himself), a book about extinctions in history called "Waiting For The Macaws", and a book on one of his favorite artists (Albert Giacometti) (Bill Viola-Interview With The US Video Artist).

Art work

Bill Viola's exhibition profile, which includes the National Gallery, London, Guggenheim Berlin, Guggenheim New York, Whitney Museum of American Art,Getty Los Angeles, California, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York marks him as a major contemporary artist.

Viola's art deals largely with the central themes of human consciousness and experience - birth, death, love, emotion and a kind of humanist spirituality. Throughout his career he has drawn meaning and inspiration from his deep interest in mystical traditions, especially Zen Buddhism, Christian mysticism and Islamic Sufism, often evident in the transcendental quality of some of his works. Equally, the subject matter and manner of western medieval and renaissance devotional art have informed his aesthetic.

His work can be divided into three types, totally conceptual, totally visual, and an offspring of the two (Is it Art?).According to art critic James Gardner of the National Review, Viola's conceptual work is forgettable just like most video art.On the other hand, Gardner feels that Viola's visual work such as "The Veiling", and his combination of both the conceptual and visual such as "The Crossing" are impressive and memorable (Is it Art?).

Viola's work often exhibits a beautiful painterly quality, his use of ultra-slow motion video encouraging the viewer to sink into to the image and connect deeply to the meanings contained within it. This quality makes his work perhaps unusually accessible within a contemporary art context. As a consequence, his work often receives mixed reviews from critics, some of whom have noted a tendency toward grandiosity and obviousness in some of his work. Yet it is this very ambitiousness, his striving toward meaning, his attempts to deal with the big themes of human life, that also makes his work so clearly appreciated by other critics, his audiences and collectors. His early work established his fascination with issues that continue to inform his work today. In particular, Viola's obsession with capturing the essence of emotion through recording of its extreme display began at least as early as his 1976 work, "The Space Between the Teeth", a video of himself screaming, and continues to this day with such works as the 45-second "Silent Mountain" (2001), which shows two actors in states of anguish.

If Viola's depictions of emotional states with no objective correlative -- emotional states for which the viewer has no external object or event to understand them by -- are one striking feature of many of his works, another, which has come to the forefront, is his reference to medieval and classical depictions of emotion. Most immediately, his subdued "Catherine's Room" 2001, has many scene by scene parallels with Andrea di Bartolo's 1393 "St. Catherine of Siena Praying".

While many video artists have been quick to adopt new technologies to their medium, Viola relies little on computer editing. Perhaps the most technically challenging part of his work -- and that which has benefitted most from the advances since his earliest pieces -- is his use of extreme slow motion. "The Quintet Series" 2000 is one such piece (actually a set of four separate videos), that shows the unfolding expressions of five actors in such slow motion that every minute detail of their changing expressions can be detected. The series is a challenging one for the viewer, because the concentration required to follow the facial expressions over time must last for minutes or more. In general, the distortion of time, along with the lack of sound or voice over, form the most immediately ""new"" aspects of Viola's work for the first-time viewer.

In 2000, Bill Viola collaborated with the popular band Nine Inch Nails, and its lead singer Trent Reznor to create a large triptych for the band's tour. The triptych mainly is focused on water imagery and was supposed to be integral with the songs that were played.

In Viola’s video exhibition titled “An Ocean Without a Shore”. There are several individuals set against a black background. Each of them seem to produce gallons of water from themselves as if they were waterfalls. The very last individual is an elderly man who actually glows a supernatural green while dozens of gallons of water erupts from his body. There are 2 individuals in the middle of the piece who only seem to trickle water, while all the others produce a waterfall of water (Sal 2008).

"Observance" 2002, is a work which may be taken partly as a response to the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks. "Observance" places the camera at eye level facing the head of a line of people of a wide variety of ages. As "Observance" unfolds, the line slowly advances, with each person pausing at the front of the line in a state of intense -- though quiet -- grief, before ceding their place to the next person in line.

In 2004, Viola embarked on "The Tristan Project". At the invitation of opera director Peter Sellars, he created video sequences to be shown as a backdrop to the action on stage during the performance of Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde. Using his trademark extreme slow motion, Viola's pieces used actors to portray the metaphorical story behind Wagner's story, seeing for example the first act as an extended ritual of purification in which the characters disrobe and wash themselves before finally plunging headlong into water together (in Wagner's story, the two characters maintain the facade of being indifferent to each other (necessary because Isolde is betrothed to Tristan's uncle) before, mistakenly believing they are going to die anyway, they reveal their true feelings). Viola trademarks such as fire and water are much in evidence here. The piece was first performed in Los Angeles at Disney Hall on 3 separate evenings in 2004, one act at a time, then given complete performances at the Bastille Opera in Paris in April and November 2005. The video pieces were later shown in London without Wagner's music in June to September 2006, at the Haunch of Venison Gallery and St Olave's College, London. The Tristan project returned, both in music and video, to the Disney Hall in Los Angeles in April 2007, with further performances at New York City's Lincoln Center in May 2007 and at the Gergiev Festival in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, in September 2007.

Viola's work has received many critical accolades. Marjorie Perloff, best known for her poetry criticism and her promotion of avant-garde writers and styles, singles him out for praise. Perloff, who has written at length about the necessity of poetic works responding to and taking advantage of contemporary computer technologies, has written of Viola as an example of how new technology -- in his case, the video camera -- can create entirely new aesthetic criteria and possibilities that did not exist in previous incarnations of the genre -- in this case, theater.

olo exhibitions

*1973 "New Video Work," Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, New York
*1974 "Bill Viola: Video and Sound Installations," The Kitchen Center, New York
*1979 "Projects: Bill Viola," The Museum of Modern Art, New York
*1983 "Bill Viola," ARC, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, France
*1985 "Summer 1985," Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
*1985 "Bill Viola," Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden
*1987 "Bill Viola: Installations and Videotapes," The Museum of Modern Art, New York
*1988 "Bill Viola: Survey of a Decade," Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, Texas
*1989 "Bill Viola," Fukui Prefectural Museum of Art, Fukui City, Japan, part of The 3rd Fukui International Video Biennale.
*1990 "Bill Viola: The Sleep of Reason," Fondation Cartier pour l'Art Contemporain, Jouy-en-Josas, France
*1991 "Bill Viola: The Passing," South London Gallery, London, England
*1992 "Bill Viola: Nantes Triptych," Chappelle de l'Oratoire, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nantes, France
*1992 "Bill Viola," Donald Young Gallery, Seattle, Washington (five installations)
*1992 "Bill Viola: Two Installations," Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London, England
*1992 "Bill Viola. Unseen Images," Stadtische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, Germany. Travels to: Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden (1993); Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain (1993); Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne, Switzerland (1993); Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, England (1993), Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel (1994)
*1994 "Bill Viola: Stations," American Center inaugural opening, Paris, France
*1994 "Bill Viola: Território do Invisível/Site of the Unseen," Centro Cultural/Banco do Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
*1995 "Buried Secrets," United States Pavilion, 46th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy. Travels to Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hannover, Germany (1995); Arizona State University Art Museum (1996)
*1996 "Bill Viola: New Work," Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia (installation)
*1996 "Bill Viola: The Messenger," Durham Cathedral, Visual Arts UK 1996, Durham, England. Travels to South London Gallery, London, England (1996); Video Positiva-Moviola, Liverpool, England; The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland; Oriel Mostyn, Gwynedd, Wales; The Douglas Hyde Gallery, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland (1997); La Chapelle Saint Louis de la Salpetriere, Paris
*1997 “Bill Viola: Fire, Water, Breath,” Guggenheim Museum (SoHo), New York
*1997 “Bill Viola: A 25-Year Survey” organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art (catalogue). Travels to Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1998); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1998) (catalogue); Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, Germany (1999); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California (1999); Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois (1999-2000)
*2000 “The World of Appearances,” Helaba Main Tower, Frankfurt, Germany (permanent installation)
*2000 “Bill Viola: New Work,” James Cohan Gallery, New York
*2001 “Bill Viola: Five Angels for the Millennium,” Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London
*2002 "Bill Viola: Going Forth By Day," Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin
*2003 "Bill Viola: The Passions," Getty Museum, Los Angeles
*2003 "Bill Viola," Kukje Gallery, Seoul
*2003 "Bill Viola: Five Angels for the Millennium," Ruhrtriennale, Gasometer, Oberhausen, Germany
*2003 "Bill Viola: The Passions," National Gallery, London
*2004 "Bill Viola: Temporality and Transcendence," Guggenheim, Bilbao, Spain
*2005 "Bill Viola: The Passions," Fundación "la Caixa," Madrid, Spain
*2005 "Bill Viola Visions," ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Aarhus, Denmark
*2005 "Bill Viola," James Cohan Gallery, New York, USA
*2005 "Tristan und Isolde," fully staged opera premiere at the Opéra National de Paris, France
*2006 "Bill Viola – Video", 2006 Recipient of the NORD/LB Art Prize, Kunsthalle Bremen, Bremen, Germany
*2006 "LOVE/DEATH The Tristan Project," Haunch of Venison (two venues), London, UK
*2007 "Bill Viola: Hatsu-Yume (First Dream)", Hyōgo Prefectural Art Museum, Kobe, Japan, including the 56-minute title piece and many works from the artist's private collection.
*2007 "Bill Viola: Four hands (2001), kilkenny Arts Festival, Ireland.
*2008 "Bill Viola: Hatsu-Yume (First Dream)", [CACMalaga] ,Spain until 30th April

ee also

* List of video artists

External links

* [ Interview with Bill Viola]
* [ San Fancisco Museum of Modern Art - comprehensive feature on Bill Viola - 25 year survey exhibition 1999]
* [ Tate Modern - Bill Viola talks about his work June 2006]
* [ Haunch of Venison Gallery]
* [ Bill Viola at the James Cohan Gallery]
* [ Bill Viola's Profile on the Getty site]
* [ The Passions, Getty]
* [ The Passions, National Gallery, London]
* [ Bill Viola's Website]
* [,,1808486,00.html Guardian review of LOVE/DEATH Tristan Und Isolde]
* [ Bill Viola talks to The Independent about The Passions]
* [ Viola's exhibition at the Centre of Contemporary Art Malaga]
* [ Is it Art?]
* [ Bill Viola-Interview With The US Video Artist, Designboom]

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