Bill Viola?

in General Discussion edited January 2014
Has anyone else seen his work?

I saw a work of his, Going forth a day, at the Guggenheim in Berlin (Guggenheim in Berlin is nothing more than a long room in an old building) a couple of years ago and was really hooked. And I have just been in Barcelona for ten days and went to Bilbao to see the Guggenheim and was pleasantly surprised to learn that they had an exhibition with more of his works.

What a remarkable guy. Has anyone seen his stuff? It just sucks you in like nothing else I have ever seen in that genre (Video art). At the same time his work combines modern technique and settings, old religious art and basic human emotions and images.


  • Reply 1 of 10
    giantgiant Posts: 6,041member
    I've been a fan of his for a long time. Some of his earlier work, like reflecting pool, was really innovative, particularly considering the video tools developed in the last coupld of years weren't available.

    The Greeting is one of my favorite works of his. I don't know if it was in the show you saw, but it's projected very large, set in 16th c. italy, takes a 45 sec clip of three women greeting one another and draws it out to about 10 minutes. It's the first of his works like this, though he has done a lot more in the past couple of years with in pieces like Quintet of the Astonished/Silent, among others in his 'The Passions' series. By slowing everything down, the viewer experiences the complex subliminal interactions which are the real basis for interpersonal communication.

    The pieces described above draw heavy influence from painting; Quintet of the Astonished was an exercise in creating a sort of modern interpretation of Bosch's Christ Mocked.

    If, like Vola, you are a mediator, then a whole new level of depth is revealed in his work, too.
  • Reply 2 of 10
    andersanders Posts: 6,523member
    I have read about The Greeting but not seen it. That and Catherine?s room are on my most wanted list. Bilbao was mostly a reunion with Going Forth By Day but included the more simple The Messenger and The Crossing as well as Five Angels for the Millennium. I hope to see The Passions as a whole at some point.

    I really like his current monumental style (some would probably say overproduced) that he has approached the last 15 years. I have seen some of his earlier works as snippets on television (hehe) but besides a few pearls its the new stuff I like.

    Luckily I just learned that all the stuff from Bilbao plus more is coming to Aarhus here in Denmark in a few month
  • Reply 3 of 10
    giantgiant Posts: 6,041member
    Very cool. Here in chicago I don't think we'll be getting his work in quantity again any time soon. Our Art Institute had a major retrospective of his work in 1999 that included most of the good old pieces, but very little of his new works. I've had to travel and scope out private galleries to catch his work over the past couple of years.

    There are a number of videos of his old work that are available. Most universities have The Passing, Selected Works (which includes the reflecting pool and the desert heat experiments) and First Dream, so getting them through interlibrary loan is very easy here in the US and is likely not a problem where you are.

    Another artist who does similar work is Gary Hill out of Seattle. Keep an eye out for his work. Tall Ships in particular is very, very, very cool.
  • Reply 4 of 10
    giantgiant Posts: 6,041member
    You know, I was thinking about quintet of the silent while I was just at lunch. I'd really like to see it again. The title explains it all. Like the greeting it's a 45 second video stretched out to 10 minutes. The actors are simply amazing. The video depicts the subconscious communication of ideas and emotions, and you watch as they bounce back and forth across the group or, in one case, travel through like a wave. Everything is completely solid and perfect and the speed makes the movement absolutely fluid. Viola is somehow able to compose an intricate melody made not of sound, but instead completely out of the subconscious interactions of the 5 people. But the piece also, by its very nature, makes the viewer a part of the piece, since the emotions and ideas are also conveyed to anyone watching it throught the exact same mechanisms. As such, it doesn't just reveal the hidden mental layers of the characters, but it also reveals the viewers own hidden layers. Amazing.

    Video is, in many ways, sight's equivalent to music, and Viola really goes to the core of this. Video art is often a crude, lazy and disorganized copy of film. But Viola's videos are on the opposite end of the spectrum, perfecting the art of the moving image to capture more focused and detailed subjects that films generally have a hard time working with.
  • Reply 5 of 10
    haraldharald Posts: 2,152member
    A wonderful genius. I love his work.
  • Reply 6 of 10
    pfflampfflam Posts: 5,053member
    I can't believe it . . . . you guys are talking about Gary Hill and Bill Viola!!

    Gary Hill is one of my favorite artists: very smart, strong work.

    Bill Viola was best before he became a super-star . . . his recent work is way too beautiful, it takes itself too seriously and is solemn enough to actually get an opposite reaction: rather than feel all edified I almost want to smirk . . . . I'm thinking particularly about an installation piece in the Met in NYC: shot in super-fast film, a bunch of actors go through a whole gamut of facial expressions . . . . it has the air of "Art" (all beautiful Vermeer colors) and is supposed to be deadly serious, but, their faces just look comical . . .

    Also, I can't say I like this The Greeting business: simply too heavy handed for my taste . . . too solemn and overly-traditional beautiful . .

    But I do like his stuff . . . especially earlier . . . like Anthem . . . which is good (a bit unbalanced) but good . . . and short . .

    I taught at Syracuse for a bit and had access to the 'Synapse Collection', which is the first collection of 'Video Art', and, which was started by none-other than Bill Viola, and in it there are some obscure things by him, some older versions etc

    My absolute favorite video of his is called I do not Know What It Is I Am Like -it is very long and pensive . . . . but it is great! It was the first piece of his that I saw (and I have seen alot) that made me feel like maybe he deserves some of the huge amount praise that is heaped on him . . . and the bucks.

    Right now, my favorite besides GHill and myself , is Paul Pfeiffer . . . he does installation works and short peices
  • Reply 7 of 10
    pfflampfflam Posts: 5,053member
    BTW: the Greeting IS film . . . . it is shot in Super-Hish speed 70mm film

    He has been using film for many years.

    A friend of mine was his assistant for a number of years . . . . Viola is rich and can get 'Grants' with a simple nod . .

    Its funny cause I heard stories while at Syracuse about how Viola got into 'Video Art' while a student there . . . . apparently he was a thorough stoner and was doing absolutely nothing but getting stoned and hangin-out . . . . he was almost kicked out except he made somekind of a dealthrough the Everson Museum Director to stay in school if he could work with the Museum and the school and set up a 'Video art' thingy-collection focus etc . . . it got him going and excited and he 'found-himself' . . and now Syracuse is one of the few schools that has an entire area dedicated to nothing but 'Video Art' . . . not 'Video production', or film, just 'Video Art' . .. (though it is a subset of Fine Arts)
  • Reply 8 of 10
    shawnjshawnj Posts: 6,656member
    HAHA--That's great.
  • Reply 9 of 10
    addaboxaddabox Posts: 12,660member
    There was a major retrospective of Viola's stuff here at the SF Modern a few years ago.

    I like his ideas around sort of "densified" video, where slow motion and monumentality give real sculptural weight to light.

    I agree with Pfflam that some of his more recent stuff goes from "dense" to "overbearing"-- but I have a weakness for projected work that makes it easy for me to overlook some shortcomings (although I'm on a personal crusade to force venues to buy perfectly affordable, bright, color balanced projectors and stop trying to get a little more mileage out of their hideous old dim, greenish units. I've seen stuff where I can't even imagine why they bothered).

    I think it's people like Viola that inspires people like Paul Pfeiffer to make work with tiny little LCD screens.... if I'm getting the artist right: he's done a series of short loops with things like basketball players, is that right?
  • Reply 10 of 10
    pfflampfflam Posts: 5,053member
    Yeah that's him
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