Viola and Video

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Bill Viola is a contemporary video artist. Most of his work is about human spirituality and nature. His subject matter is based in emotions and changes that happen within, and he uses video to show us these feelings in motion. Many of his pieces have been reminiscent of paintings from the Renaissance and other great historic painters, but uses video to modernize them. For example, The Raft is an interpretation of the classical painting The Raft of Medusa by Théodore Géricault.

His style seems to use a lot of slow motion, showing the gravity of the actors emotions and actions as they are happening. By slowing them down, we can observe the way people act and react, which is a very important message in his work. A good example of this is Observance, a project in which people are waiting in line to see something, and sadly leaving the front of the line to allow the next person to take the lead. The viewer is never shown what the people are looking at, but we get to watch the reaction. It’s interesting to see how each person expresses their grief.

"Observance" by Bill Viola

I think Viola’s work is fascinating because he takes something that happens very quickly and displays it almost step by step. Even his symbolic works give the audience a chance to take in the weight of the situation by slowing the action down a considerable amount. His work is very beautiful to look at and I find it interesting how the works remind me of classical paintings. I’m sure Caravaggio would find it charming to see tenebrism applied in movement.

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