Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Spirit and Medium: The Video Art of Bill Viola

This reading suggests that video art has been around for nearly four decades. Video art/installations have become a dominant avant-garde art form in the United States. Video art never looses strangeness nor challenge. It is thought to pose difficulties for viewers. Video installations often require the viewer to occupy real time in order to experience and get the most out of the medium. The minutes usually pass by slowly in a video installation. The average gallery or museum visitor spends only a few seconds before each painting or sculpture whereas video art takes more time to comprehend and analyze. Video art requires you to stand among others and wonder what to do with yourself, your material self, as you spend anywhere from two minutes to an ten or twenty watching a stream of images on a monitor or a projection onto a wall. Video installations can often make you visible to yourself. Its almost like you become a social presence confronting yourself and others, and can become part of the art work itself. This type of art has a tendency to allow the viewer to wind into another state of mind, often forgetting about reality or escaping for a duration. The time-based nature of video relates to its difficulty to engage and comprehend. "Video artists like Bill Viola are very good at using this medium to anatomize human perception, dissecting its mechanics and ideologies." Much of Bill Viola's work since the mid-1970s, reflects on video as a medium and engages in a search for its metaphorical capabilities. If Viola's work is occasionally "difficult" it is because of the ideas he wishes his viewer will consider as they experience his installations. Video installations can often provide an emotional rush and fascination. Installations incorporate effects like sound, motion, text, stills, etc. Most of Viola's videos and installations are about the relationship between the artistic act and the viewer standing in or before the work. Engaging himself as well as engaging the viewer is what concerns Viola as an artist.


  1. I think it's a really interesting point that video art requires more from the viewer in terms of comprehension. Though still art can be perplexing, even mesmerizing, the realm of video art really does take it to new levels. Once more senses are incorporated, viewers automatically become more involved and emotionally invested in the piece. What's great about video art is how often you can discover new facets by watching the piece again; the time-based nature allows for more layers to uncover, because the artist has more to work with. I really enjoy Bill Viola's take on this, because he plays with the pro's of video art and stretches the possibilities.

  2. I agree with JAckie when she comments on how with video, the viewer, in a sense, becomes a part of the work himself/herself. In such art, one cannot help but keep their eyes wide and stare upon the screen; their anticipation forces them to be forever posed to receive the next amount of visual imagery presented. Also, video installation is often a multi-media practice, further enabling the viewer to connect to the artwork.

  3. I think that our obsession with video has never died down ever since it emerged as entertainment, and then later as an art form. People will never get tired of watching a moving image because it is so intriguing. I love the point you make about the difference in time that the different art forms demand. For instance, paintings and sculptures are usually only considered for a few seconds in a museum, but there is something about a video that demands you to watch its entirety. The entire piece is visually stimulating because it keeps changing. I also love how video is so in tune to the audience. Many of the classical art pieces were made to glorify god, or to please a commissioner. It's true that all contemporary art pieces take account of the audience to some degree, but I feel like video art has always done that, and that's part of the reason why we are so drawn to it; because we feel as if we are a part of it.