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Contemporary art

Western art

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Bodies of light



Bill Viola

United States of America

25 Jan 1951 -


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.




Media category

Time-based art

Materials used

digital tape (HDCAM) shown as dual channel (diptych) digital video, black and white, silent, plasma screen




duration: 00:21:27 min; aspect ratio: 9:16; plasmas: 102.0 x 122.0 x 9.0 cm overall

Signature & date

Signed l.l. certificate of authenticity, black fibre-tipped pen "Bill Viola". Not dated.


Gift of the John Kaldor Family Collection 2011. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Bill Viola

Works in the collection


Shown in 3 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 7 publications


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.).