About us
Artists Bill Viola
Bill Viola Photo

Bill Viola

American Video Artist

Movements and Styles: Video Art, Installation Art

Born: January 25, 1951 - Queens, NY

Bill Viola Timeline

Quotes

"The honesty of that presence inside you will determine the quality of your work--not ego, filling a market or filling a niche. There is something higher than art."
Bill Viola
"Video treats light like water - it becomes fluid on the video tube. Water supports the fish like light supports man. Land is the death of the fish - darkness is the death of man."
Bill Viola
"We must take time back into ourselves to let our consciousness breathe and our cluttered minds be still and silent. This is what art can do and what museums can be in today's world."
Bill Viola
"What digital technology is giving us is the ability to represent invisible things as well as visible things."
Bill Viola
"Simple facts of life become the way to find a bridge and shared vision with people from different cultures, races, history, and religion,"
Bill Viola
"That's a real important part of human beings, whether it happens in the secular context of a museum or it happens in the religious context of a church or a temple. A communal experience, in the sense of sitting together in silence or standing together in silence is a very special thing. It's people just quietly absorbing a presence in the space. That's part and parcel of what art has been, whether it's used for religious or secular purposes."
Bill Viola
"When you think about eternity, it doesn't mean thinking about being here 1,000 years from now. It means thinking about what you're doing now, because what you do matters. It's part of the fabric of the present moment and always will be."
Bill Viola
"I think that any time you are making something that touches the inner self of the human being, anything that emerges out of ourselves from a genuine, unguarded place is ultimately a sacred act, no matter whether you follow a religion or not."
Bill Viola
"So in today's world, where our lives are filled with so many messages floating all around us and affecting us, art museums are a special place where you can be quiet and still and focus on another person's dreams".
Bill Viola
"We can see the seeds of what some have described as the ultimate recording technology: total spatial storage, with the viewer wandering through some three-dimensional, possibly life-sized field of pre-recorded or simulated scenes and events evolving in time."
Bill Viola
"I realized that my video work as an artist and my private life at that time were the same. It changed my life dramatically."
Bill Viola

"Birth is not a beginning, death is not an end."

Bill Viola Signature

Synopsis

Bill Viola has been referred to as "the Rembrandt of the video age" and, indeed, his work pays homage not only to the famous Dutch master but to the tradition of creating large-scale works of art that draw the viewer into beautifully painted images and compelling narratives. There is often a spiritual component to his work, with elements of Zen Buddhism, Islamic Sufism, and Christian mysticism underpinning themes considered universal: birth, death, love, sex, grief, and redemption. Viola considers the "phenomena of sense perception" as a path to self-awareness; therefore, his work is a blend of experimental video art and sound, including avant-garde music performance. He was one of the earliest artists to explore the potential of the video camera, which in its most basic form in the 1970s only vaguely resembles the sophisticated devices of today. As one of the pioneers of the medium, he has consistently exploited its rapidly changing technology to create over 150 artworks over the last 40 years.

Key Ideas

For Viola, the video camera functions as a "microscope for being" with which events, from milestones to minutiae, may be fixed in time without the gaps that result from sleep or memory loss or even conscious alteration. With video it is even possible to slow down the otherwise inexorable and rapid progression of time, thus his use of extreme slow motion is a kind of response to the anxiety of being aware of our mortality.
More than simply creating a video that is shown on a screen, Viola created environments that were highly immersive. For instance, his installations almost always incorporate sound, including experimental music, and are typically created and presented in an either darkened or at least otherwise barren exhibition space in order to eliminate any distractions that would prevent the viewer from fully engaging with the work.
Viola's videos are usually sparsely populated and furnished. Including fewer figures and objects shifts the attention to the narrative, which is often the artist's goal: giving visual form to experiences that we cannot normally see or experience.
When he first began producing videos, Viola was intent on "proving something, much like a scientist." He approached the creative process with video art like a "controlled experiment" in which he used the camera to record carefully devised images and narratives. As the technology improved, however, he realized that his approach should basically be the opposite: that he would adapt to the new possibilities presented by technological progress of the medium and be spontaneous, capturing life experiences rather than choreographing them. Rather than creating videos in the controlled environment of the studio, Viola began what would be a career-spanning practice of going out of the studio, turning on his camera, and opening his work to the spontaneity - and routine - of real life.

Biography

Bill Viola Photo

Early Years

William "Bill" Viola was born and grew up in Queens, New York. He was a very shy, introverted child and found his internal world far more interesting and engaging than his external world of friends and family. He spent a lot of time drawing and by the age of three, with the help of his mother, he had perfected drawing motorboats. Once in school, the budding young artist received encouragement and validation. He recounted the story later in his life of his kindergarten teacher praising him for a finger painting he had made, holding it up and showing it to the class. Evidently, in response, Bill hid under the table in embarrassment. The teacher put the painting on the wall for everyone to admire and Viola, probably only half seriously, later identified that incident as his first "show." That small gesture of encouragement had a tremendous impact on the shy child, encouraging him to regard himself from that point onward as an artist.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Bill Viola Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Bill Viola
Interactive chart with Bill Viola's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Nam June PaikNam June Paik
Joseph BeuysJoseph Beuys
Mark RothkoMark Rothko
Alberto GiacomettiAlberto Giacometti
Bruce NaumanBruce Nauman

Personal Contacts

David TudorDavid Tudor

Movements

RenaissanceRenaissance
The BaroqueThe Baroque

Influences on Artist
Bill Viola
Bill Viola
Years Worked: 1970s - present
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Matthew BarneyMatthew Barney
Janet BiggsJanet Biggs
Gary HillGary Hill

Personal Contacts

David RossDavid Ross

Movements

Video ArtVideo Art
Installation ArtInstallation Art

If you see an error or typo, please:
tell us
Cite this page

Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
Available from:
[Accessed ]