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New Technology in Bill Viola's Art
American artist Bill Viola (born 1951) has been on the forefront of video art since the 1970s. Raised in New York City, as a young child he nearly drowned, an experience he describes “…the most beautiful world I’ve ever seen in my life.” After studying and working as a video technician in Syracause Viola moved on to become a pioneering artist in his field. One of his most recent creations, Ocean Without A Shore, from 2007, installed in the small Church of San Gallo in Italy for the Venice Biennale, featured camera technology that allowed for a single string of video to change from low definition/grayscale into full colour/high definition. Viola’s themes often include his fascination (likely from his near-death experience) with water. Using again highly sophisticated technology (created just for Viola’s piece) to create a literal clear glass-like wall of water, his models walk through the feature in low-def and emerge into crystal clear colour. Three vertical screens were installed above three altars, signifying the passing of life into death, and the idea of rebirth. What better place to portray life and death than in the setting of a chapel? Viola’s work achieved high critical acclaim; in this tiny chapel nearly hidden in the Italian city, capable of holding less than 50 people at one time, Ocean Without A Shore gained over 60,000 visitors during its installation. Attached below is a “Tate Shots” interview with the artist about his inspiration and the amount of work required this particular piece.
See more of Viola’s works here