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Issue No. 18 - Humanity

THE ARCHIVES: Bill Viola

THE ARCHIVES: Bill Viola

Bill Viola, Water Martyr, 2014, Color High-Definition video on flat panel display, 42 3/8 x 24 1/2 x 2 5/8 in. (107.6 x 62.1 x 6.8 cm), 7:10 minutes, Executive producer: Kira Perov, Performer: John Hay

Bill Viola, Water Martyr, 2014, Color High-Definition video on flat panel display, 42 3/8 x 24 1/2 x 2 5/8 in. (107.6 x 62.1 x 6.8 cm), 7:10 minutes, Executive producer: Kira Perov, Performer: John Hay

Musée: When I was speaking with you at your opening, you mentioned that you’ve been returning to your old notebooks, and that you wanted to revisit your old work. What prompted you to revisit your past catalogue?

Bill Viola: My notebooks are filled with ideas for new works. One or two will surface as I scan them from time to time. Sometimes an idea appears in my notebooks several times over the years in slightly different forms, until the work is finally ready to be created.

Bill Viola, Fire Martyr, 2014, Color High-Definition video on flat panel display, 42 3/8 x 24 1/2 x 2 5/8 in. (107.6 x 62.1 x 6.8 cm), 7:10 minutes, Executive producer: Kira Perov, Performer: Darrow Igus

Bill Viola, Fire Martyr, 2014, Color High-Definition video on flat panel display, 42 3/8 x 24 1/2 x 2 5/8 in. (107.6 x 62.1 x 6.8 cm), 7:10 minutes, Executive producer: Kira Perov, Performer: Darrow Igus

Bill Viola, Earth Martyr, 2014, Color High-Definition video on flat panel display, 42 3/8 x 24 1/2 x 2 5/8 in. (107.6 x 62.1 x 6.8 cm), 7:10 minutes, Executive producer: Kira Perov, Performer: Norman Scott

Bill Viola, Earth Martyr, 2014, Color High-Definition video on flat panel display, 42 3/8 x 24 1/2 x 2 5/8 in. (107.6 x 62.1 x 6.8 cm), 7:10 minutes, Executive producer: Kira Perov, Performer: Norman Scott

Your recent exhibition of Inverted Birth (2014) at James Cohan Gallery is reminiscent of Emergence (2002, commissioned by the J. Paul Getty Museum)—do you see it as a continuation, and do you often see later pieces as continuations of your earlier work? Or an elaboration, perhaps?

Over the years, I continue to explore the profound themes of human existence, life, death, and their mysteries. The same questions are found in all my works, just expressed in new ways.

These two works you mention contain a paradox–they somehow represent birth and death at the same time. In Emergence, a young man rises from a watery cistern as in a kind of ascension, he is alive and yet he is also dead. Inverted Birth depicts a series of violent actions run in reverse, as if the person is awakening from the dead, and yet his transformation is also a birth.

Bill Viola, Air Martyr, 2014, Color High-Definition video on flat panel display, 42 3/8 x 24 1/2 x 2 5/8 in. (107.6 x 62.1 x 6.8 cm), 7:10 minutes, Executive producer: Kira Perov, Performer: Sarah Steben

Bill Viola, Air Martyr, 2014, Color High-Definition video on flat panel display, 42 3/8 x 24 1/2 x 2 5/8 in. (107.6 x 62.1 x 6.8 cm), 7:10 minutes, Executive producer: Kira Perov, Performer: Sarah Steben

Read the full article from our past issue Science here

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Current Feature: Nick Waplington

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