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An image of Bodies of light by Bill Viola An image of Bodies of light by Bill Viola

Bill Viola

(United States of America 25 Jan 1951 – )

Bodies of light
Media categories
Time-based media, Video, DVD
Materials used
video diptych, 9:16 ratio, black and white, silent, 21:27 min; plasma screens

102.0 x 122.0 x 9.0 cm overall

Gift of the John Kaldor Family Collection 2011. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
Accession number
© Bill Viola
Not on display
Further information

Performers: Jeff Mills and Lisa Rhoden

Bill Viola began experimenting with the possibilities of video as an art form early in the 1970s. He explores and manipulates the specific characteristics of his medium, such as light and linear time, by speeding up, slowing down and reversing his footage. He uses different cameras to create particular atmospheres, ranging from black-and-white surveillance footage to high-end video transferred from 35mm film.

Viola has long been interested in eastern religions and more recently in Christian iconography, in particular images that evoke our ephemeral existence on earth. ‘Observance’ is from ‘The passions’ series. In this work figures move out of the dark towards the portal of the screen, gazing beyond the frame into the viewer’s space as if into a tomb and then with a melancholy air they move away. ‘Six heads’ explores a range of human passions while in ‘Bodies of light' a male and a female stand in water while a globe of light moves up and down their bodies, eventually dissolving their forms.

Bibliography (7)

Simon Grant, Bill Viola Love/Death: The Tristan Project, 'Bill Viola: the visual pilgrim', pg.4-7, 2006, 7, 21, 22-23 (illus.).

Shirley J. Madill, Sublime embrace: experiencing consciousness in contemporary art, 2006.

Kira Perov, Bill Viola: Bodies of Light, 2009.

Kira Perov, Bill Viola: visioni interiori, 2008.

Randy Jayne Rosenberg, Missing peace: artists & the Dalai Lama, 2006.

Peter Sellars, New Crowned Hope: Festival Wien, 2006.

Wayne Tunnicliffe (Editor), John Kaldor family collection: Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2011, 257, 264-65 (illus.).

Exhibition history (4)

Bill Viola: fall into Paradise: Love/Death: The Tristan Project, 2005, Haunch of Venison, London, 21 Jun 2006–02 Sep 2006

40 years: Kaldor Public Art Projects, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 02 Oct 2009–14 Feb 2010

John Kaldor Family Collection Artist Room #2 - Francis Alys and Bill Viola:

Five Centuries of Melencolia, University of Queensland Art Museum, Brisbane, 30 Aug 2014–30 Nov 2014