THE ARCHIVES: Bill Viola
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.
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.
Read the full article from our past issue Science here