Bill Viola

 Bill Viola Bill Viola (b. 1951) is internationally recognised as one of today’s leading artists. He 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 over 40 years he has created architectural video installations, video films, sound environments, electronic music performances, flat panel video pieces, as well as works for television broadcast, concerts, opera, and sacred spaces. 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. His single channel videotapes have been widely broadcast and presented cinematically, while his writings have been extensively published and translated for international readers. Viola uses video to explore the phenomena of sense perception as an avenue to self-knowledge. His works focus on universal human experiences—birth, death, the unfolding of consciousness—and have roots in both Eastern and Western art as well as spiritual traditions, including Zen Buddhism, Islamic Sufism, and Christian mysticism. Using the inner language of subjective thoughts and collective memories, his videos communicate to a wide audience, allowing viewers to experience the work directly, and in their own personal way. BIll Viola Image from BILL VIOLA Ancient of Days, 1979-81 Videotape, color, stereo sound; 12:21 minutes Photo: Kira Perov Bill Viola received his BFA in Experimental Studios from Syracuse University in 1973 where he studied visual art with Jack Nelson and electronic music with Franklin Morris. During the 1970s he lived for 18 months in Florence, Italy, as technical director of production for art/tapes/22, one of the first video art studios in Europe, and then travelled widely to study and record traditional performing arts in the Solomon Islands, Java, Bali, and Japan. Viola was invited to be artist-in-residence at the WNET Channel 13 Television Laboratory in New York from 1976-1980 where he created a series of works that were premiered on television. In 1977 Viola was invited to show his video-tapes at La Trobe University (Melbourne, Australia) by cultural arts director Kira Perov who, a year later, joined him in New York. They married in 1980 and began a lifelong collaboration working and travelling together. Image from Image by BILL VIOLA Anthem, 1983 Videotape, color, stereo sound; 11:30 minutes Produced in association with WNET/ Thirteen Television Laboratory, New York Photo: Kira Perov In 1979 Viola and Perov travelled to the Sahara desert, Tunisia to record mirages. From 1980 they lived in Japan for a year and a half where they studied Zen Buddhism with Master Daien Tanaka, and Viola became the first artist-in-residence at Sony Corporation’s Atsugi research laboratories. At the end of 1981 Viola and Perov settled in Long Beach, California, initiating projects to create art works based on medical imaging technologies of the human body at a local hospital, animal consciousness at the San Diego Zoo, and fire walking rituals among the Hindu communities in Fiji. In 1987 they travelled for five months throughout the American Southwest photographing Native American rock art sites, and recording nocturnal desert landscapes with a series of specialised video cameras. At the end of 2005, they journeyed with their two sons to Dharamsala, India to record a prayer blessing with the Dalai Lama. Music has always been an important part of Viola’s life and work. From 1973-1980 he performed with avant-garde composer David Tudor as a member of his Rainforest ensemble, later called Composers Inside Electronics. Viola has also created videos to accompany music compositions including 20th century composer Edgard Varèse’ Déserts in 1994 with the Ensemble Modern, and, in 2000, a three-song video suite for the rock group Nine Inch Nails’ world tour. In 2004 Viola began collaborating with director Peter Sellars and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen to create a new production of Richard Wagner’s opera, Tristan und Isolde, which was presented in project form by the Los Angeles Philharmonic in December 2004, and later at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York (2007). The complete opera received its world premiere at the Opéra National de Paris, Bastille in April 2005. BIll Viola Image from BILL VIOLA Ancient of Days, 1979-81 Videotape, color, stereo sound; 12:21 minutes Photo: Kira Perov Since the early 1970s Viola’s video art works have been seen all over the world. Exhibitions include “Bill Viola: Installations and Videotapes,” Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1987; “Bill Viola: Unseen Images,” touring six venues in Europe, 1992-1994, organised by the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf and Kira Perov; U.S. Pavilion exhibition at the 46th Venice Biennale in 1995, “Buried Secrets,” a series of five new installation works. In 1997 the Whitney Museum of American Art organised “Bill Viola: A 25-Year Survey” travelling for two years to five other museums in the United States and Europe. “Bill Viola: The Passions,” a new series inspired by late medieval and early Renaissance art, was exhibited at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles in 2003 then travelled to the National Gallery, London, the Fondación “La Caixa” in Madrid and the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. “Bill Viola: Hatsu-Yume (First Dream)” (2006-2007), drew over 340,000 visitors to the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo. In 2007 nine installations were shown at the Zahenta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw; and Ocean Without a Shore was created for the 15th century Church of San Gallo during the Venice Biennale. In 2008 “Bill Viola: Visioni interiori,” a survey exhibition organised by Kira Perov, was presented in Rome at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni and in 2009 “Bill Viola: The Intimate Work,” was held at the De Pont Museum of Contemporary Art in Tilburg, Netherlands. Viola holds honorary doctorates from Syracuse University (1995), The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1997), California Institute of the Arts (2000), and Royal College of Art, London (2004) among others. He is the recipient of numerous awards and honors including a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 1989. He was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2000 and in 2006 he was awarded Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Government. In 2009 he received the XXI Catalonia International Prize in Barcelona, Spain. Viola was awarded the Praemium Imperiale art award in the category of painting in 2011. Bill Viola and Kira Perov, his wife and long-time collaborator, live and work in Long Beach, California. - From


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On Air: Bill Viola

All films: Courtesy of Bill Viola Studio / Copyright Photography: Kira Perov Angel's Gate, 1989, 4:50 min. Writes Viola: "A succession of individual images focusing on mortality, decay and disintegration, are delineated by long, slow fades to black." Anthem, 1983, 11:30 min Anthem BIll Viola Image by BILL VIOLA Anthem, 1983 Videotape, color, stereo sound; 11:30 minutes Produced in association with WNET/ Thirteen Television Laboratory, New York Photo: Kira Perov Anthem is a post-industrial lamentation, structured on the single piercing scream of a young girl as she stands in the vast chamber of Union Station in Los Angeles. Chott El-Djerid (A Portrait in Light and Heat), 1979, 28min. BIll Viola Image from BILL VIOLA Chott el-Djerid (A Portrait in Light and Heat), 1979 Videotape, color, mono sound; 28 minutes Produced at WNET/ Thirteen Television Laboratory, New York Photo: Kira Perov Chott el-Djerid is a remarkable study of perception and transcendence. Viola writes that "Chott el- Djerid is the name of a vast dry salt lake in the Tunisian Sahara desert where mirages are most likely to form in the midday sun. Here, the intense desert heat manipulates, bends and distorts the light rays to such an extent that you actually see things which are not there. Deserts, 1994, 26 min Déserts was created to accompany a live performance of the work of avant-garde composer Edgard Varèse (1885-1965). The Ensemble Modern, a contemporary music group based in Frankfurt, commissioned Viola to create a visual score for Varèse's Déserts after discovering notes by the composer referring to an unrealized image component of his composition. Four Songs, 1976, 33 min Videotape Collection A videotape collection comprised of four videos: Junkyard Levitation, Songs of In-nocence, Truth Through Mass Individuation, and The Space Between the Teeth. In terming these tapes "songs," Viola references the relation of his work to musical structures and to the poetics of Romanticism. Hatsu-Yume (First Dream), 1981, 56 min BIll Viola Image from BILL VIOLA Hatsu-Yume (First Dream), 1981 For Daien Tanaka Videotape, color, stereo sound; 56 minutes Produced at Sony Corporation, Atsugi Plant, Japan, in association with WNET/ Thirteen Television Laboratory, New York Photo: Kira Perov Viola writes: "I was thinking about light and its relation to water and to life, and also its opposite — darkness or the night and death. Video treats light like water — it becomes fluid on the video tube." I Do Not Know What It Is I Am Like, 1986, 89 min BIll Viola Image from BILL VIOLA I Do Not Know What It Is I Am Like, 1986 Videotape, color, stereo sound; 89 minutes Photo: Kira Perov Structured in five parts, Il Corpo Scuro (The Dark Body), The Language of the Birds, The Night of Sense, Stunned by the Drum, and The Living Flame, the tape envisions a metaphysical journey of rational and intuitive thought, from the natural world to spiritual rituals. Memory Surfaces and Mental Prayers, 1977, 29 min Videotape Collection Memory Surfaces and Mental Prayers is a collection of works that address the de-sire to transcend the perceptual and cognitive structures of experience. The collec-tion includes The Wheel of Becoming, The Morning After the Night of Power, and Sweet Light. Migrations, 1976/2010, 7:15 min BIll Viola Restored in 2010 Image by BILL VIOLA Migration, 1976 Color, mono sound, 7:00 minutes Produced in association with Synapse Video Center, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York Photo: Kira Perov Migration is an analysis of an image, a metaphorical exercise in perception and rep-resentation, illusion and reality, microcosm and macrocosm, nature and conscious-ness. Reasons for Knocking on an Empty House, 1983, 19:11 min Reasons for Knocking at an Empty House is a powerfully austere observation of the perceptual experience of the self in isolation, subjected to extended duration. Red Tape – Collected Works, 1975, 30 min Videotape Collection A collection of video works that includes: Playing Soul Music to My Freckles, A Non-Dairy Creamer, The Semi-Circular Canals, A Million Other Things (2), and Return. In each of these performative, structuralist exercises, a specific function of perception or representation — as articulated through video technology — becomes a metaphor for a perspective of the self. Sodium Vapor, 1979 (released 1986), 14:41 min Writes Viola: "Sodium Vapor was recorded over a period of several weeks in the hours between one and five in the morning on the streets of an industrial area in lower Manhattan. The title derives from an interest in the particular qualities of so-dium vapor street lighting — its characteristic color temperature, the shadows it casts, and the eerie quality it seems to impart to the objects it illuminates." The Passing, 1991, 54:13 min The Passing hauntingly travels the terrains of the conscious, the subconscious, and the desert landscapes of the Southwest, melding sleep, dreams and the drama of waking life into a stunning masterpiece. The Reflecting Pool – Collected Works, 1977 - 1980, 62 min BIll Viola Image from Bill Viola The Reflecting Pool, 1977-79 Videotape, color, mono sound; 7:00 minutes Photo: Kira Perov A collection of five independent works which, taken as a whole, describe the stages of a personal journey using images of transition — from day to night, motion to stillness, time to timelessness, etc. Each work explores specific video techniques and technologies, in combination with the spatial potentials of stereo sound. The five works are: The Reflecting Pool, Moonblood, Silent Life, Ancient of Days, and Vegetable Memory. A Phrase from Chris 2011  Bill Viola Bill Viola’s A Phrase from Chris is part of his Transfigurations series that includes the installation Ocean Without a Shore (2007) created for the 52nd Venice Biennale. Viola explains: “Transfiguration refers to a rare process whereby both the substance and essence of an entity is reconfigured. [...] The word derives from the ancient Greek ‘metemorphothe,’ or ‘metamorphosis,’ suggesting a complete reformation. However, the word takes on its fullest meaning in the spiritual context when it refers to the moment when a person or an object is transformed not by external means but from within.” -> From the Sedition Selection