Bill Viola views art as the ability to get outside yourself by going inside oneself. He stated that the work of an artist is a transformation. During his year and a half in Japan he studied with a Zen Buddhist teacher who taught him to “stop thinking” because when you are empty, that is when you can do something. If you are full, that can’t happen. Half the work an artist creates has to be a gift from an unknown place and half comes from tapping into one’s talent. If an artist thinks a work will be great he/she is doomed.
‘I saw these beautiful shafts of light. I wanted to stay there.
‘My uncle realised I was down there and then I started pushing him away.
‘Finally, he grabbed me and pulled me out. If it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t be here.
‘The thing that happened was so brief, but it stuck right in, deep inside me. It was really quite powerful.’
Viola’s works casts light on fundamental human themes and experiences such as birth, death, love, anger, ecstasy, suffering and fear, and almost reflect Renaissance paintings in their scale and intensity.
His wife and long-time collaborator Kira Perov shares a similar fascination in core elements.
‘Water is an element of mystery. It represents the cycles of birth and deaths, and transformation,’ she says.
‘We don’t normally dwell in this state.
‘So to examine and to expand it … we’re giving people the gift of time so that they can reflect. ‘
His work Small Saints came out of work he created for the 2007 Venice Biennale which I was lucky enough to see and even wrote about in a previous blog. In Venice, three video screens were placed in a 15th century chapel in the altar niches where paintings once hung. The videos consisted of a “water wall” that people would walk through. The water fell like a sheet of glass so you could see right through it. He used two cameras to shoot this work. As figures come toward the viewer the image is obscure and black and white. The viewer is unaware that water is even there. As figures slowly walk through the water and emerge on the other side, the image shifts to colour The black and white portions are shot with the 1970s camera and the colour portions are shot with a camera that costs about $150,000. Viola discussed how he prefers the older camera; it has great sentimental value for him and he loves the quality of the film it produces. The two portions of the work come together to create a world in which the dead transition to the land of the living, but soon realise they can’t stay and have to go back.
I am particularly interested in BV and inspiration for presentation ideas…
Sound, the sound tack in this piece is central to ones experience and interpretation. The melodic and familiarity of it is comforting and seem to hone ones concentration on the visual element.