Artist biography

American video and sound installation artist. Viola was involved with video and electronic media while a student at Syracuse University, New York, in the early 1970s. His concentration on audio as well as visual mediation was influenced at this time by study with the composer David Tudor and the Composers Inside Electronic Group. His subsequent work was marked both by his use of innovative technology and by culturally diverse sources garnered from travels to the South Pacific and later to the Himalaya. In He Weeps for You (1976; Berlin, Neue N.G.), an installation shown at Documenta 6 in Kassel, Viola used a closed-circuit television to include the viewer's image, reflected in a water droplet, in a cycle of filming and projection that evinces the influence of Eastern philosophy through the use of new technology, creating an unaffected allegorical representation of human experience.

Viola's approach became broader and less dependent on technological intervention in the early 1990s. Heaven and Earth shows two videos taken of a woman dying and another woman giving birth, the screens positioned so close that they reflect in one another. Viola's entry for the 46th Venice Biennale continued this more broadly signifying approach: of a set of five works collectively titled Buried Secrets, the last, The Greeting (1995; Basle, Kstmus.), showed a slowed-down staged film of three women meeting, based on Jacopo da Pontormo's Visitation (c1528–9; Carmignano, S Michele). With references to Renaissance painting, the minutely observed, coagulated moment becomes emblematic of a broader time-span of human experience.

Bibliography
Bill Viola: Installations and Videotapes (exh. cat., ed. B. London; New York, MOMA, 1987)
Bill Viola: Slowly Turning Narrative (exh. cat., essays by M. E. Feldman and H. A. Kistler; Philadelphia, PA, ICA; Richmond, VA, Virginia Mus. A., 1992)
Bill Viola: Unseen Images (exh. cat., ed. M. L. Syring; Düsseldorf, Städt. Ksthalle, 1994)
Bill Viola, Stations (exh. cat., essays by M. Heutschel, H. Paflik-Huber and B. Viola; Stuttgart, Würtemburg Kstver,; Los Angeles, CA, Lannon Found., 1996)
Bill Viola (exh. cat., ed. D. A. Ross and P. Sellars; Los Angeles, CA, Co. Mus. A.; New York, Whitney, 1997–8)

JOHN-PAUL STONARD
10 December 2001

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