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Contemporary art

Western art

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Bill Viola

United States of America

25 Jan 1951 -


Performers: Alan Abelew, Sheryl Arenson, Frank Bruynbroek, Carol Cetrone, Cathy Chang, Ernie Charles, Alan Clark, JD Cullum, Michael Irby, Tanya Little, Susan Matus, Kate Noonan, Paul O’Connor, Valerie Spencer, Louis Stark, Richard Stobie, Michael Eric Strickland, Ellis Williams

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 (betacam) shown as single channel digital video, colour, silent, plasma screen




duration: 00:10:14 min; aspect ratio 9:16; plasma: 120.7 x 72.4 x 10.2 cm

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 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

Referenced in 5 publications


Kira Perov, Bill Viola: visioni interiori, 2008.

Chris Townsend (Editor), The Art of Bill Viola, 2004.

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

Bill Viola, Hatsu Yume: first dream, 2006, 142-145 (illus.).

John Walsh, Bill Viola: The Passions, 2003, 124 (illus.), 276.