Bill Viola was born on January 25, 1951 and grew up in Queens, New York, and Westbury, New York. In 1973 he graduated from Syracuse with a Bachelor in Fine Arts.
His first job on graduation was as a video technician at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse. From 1973 to 1980 he studied and performed with composer David Tudor in the new music group "Rainforest" (later called "Composers Inside Electronics"). From 1974-1976 Viola worked as technical director at Art/Tapes/22, a pioneering video studio in Florence, Italy where he encountered video artists Nam June Paik, Bruce Nauman, and Vito Acconci. From 1976-1983 he was artist-in-residence at WNET Thirteen Television Laboratory in New York. In 1976 and 1977 he travelled to the Solomon Islands, Java, Indonesia to record traditional performing arts. Bill Viola’s Early Jobs
In 1977 Viola was invited to show work at La Trobe University (Melbourne, Australia) by cultural arts director Kira Perov. Viola and Perov later married, beginning an important lifelong collaboration in working and travelling together. In 1980, they lived in Japan for a year and a half on a Japan/U.S. cultural exchange fellowship where they studied Buddhism with Zen Master Daien Tanaka. During this time Viola was also artist-in-residence at Sony Corporation's Atsugi Laboratories.
Viola's art deals largely with the central themes of human consciousness and experience
a kind of humanist spirituality.
Throughout his career he has drawn meaning and inspiration from his deep interest in mystical traditions, especially - Zen Buddhism - Christian mysticism - Islamic Sufism This is often evident in the transcendental quality of some of his works. Equally, the subject matter and manner of western medieval and renaissance devotional art have informed his aesthetic.
Viola's work often exhibits a beautiful painterly quality, his use of ultra-slow motion video encouraging the viewer to sink into to the image and connect deeply to the meanings contained within it.
Viola's obsessed with capturing the essence of emotion through recording of its extreme display, this began at least as early as 1976.
While many video artists have been quick to adopt new technologies to their medium, Viola relies little on computer editing. Perhaps the most technically challenging part of his work -- and that which has benefitted most from the advances since his earliest pieces -- is his use of extreme slow motion.
Qualities of his work
Viola's work has received many critical accolades. Marjorie Perloff , best known for her poetry criticism and her promotion of avant-garde writers and styles, singles him out for praise. Perloff, who has written at length about the necessity of poetic works responding to and taking advantage of contemporary computer technologies, has written of Viola as an example of how new technology -- in his case, the video camera -- can create entirely new aesthetic criteria and possibilities that did not exist in previous incarnations of the genre -- in this case, theater. Acknoledgement