bill viola (b.1951) is considered a pioneer in the medium of video art and is internationally recognized 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 35 years he has created videotapes, architectural video installations, sound environments, electronic music performances, flat panel video pieces, and works for television broadcast. 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.
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, seven installations toured six venues in europe, 1992-1994, organized by the kunsthalle düsseldorf and kira perov. viola represented the u.s. at the 46th venice biennale in 1995 with buried secrets, a series of five new installation works. in 1997 the whitney museum of american art organized bill viola: a 25-year survey that included over 35 installations and videotapes and traveled for two years to six museums in the united states and europe. in 2002 viola completed his most ambitious project, going forth by day, a five part projected digital “fresco” cycle, his first work in high-definition video, commissioned by the deutsche guggenheim berlin and the guggenheim museum, new york. 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 traveled to the national gallery, london, the fondación “la caixa” in madrid and the national gallery of australia, canberra. one of the largest exhibitions of viola’s installations to date, 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 organized by kira perov, was presented in rome at the palazzo delle esposizioni.
viola is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including a john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation fellowship in 1989, and the first medienkunstpreis in 1993, presented jointly by zentrum für kunst und medientechnologie, karlsruhe, and siemens kulturprogramm, in germany. he 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, and was inducted into the american academy of arts and sciences in 2000. in 1998 viola was invited to be a scholar at the getty research institute, los angeles and in 2009 received the eugene mcdermott award in the arts, mit. in 2006 he was awarded commander of the order of arts and letters by the french government. bill viola and kira perov, his wife and long-time collaborator, live and work in long beach, california.