Bill Viola (b.1951) is internationally recognized as one of today’s leading media artists. His potent themes combine Eastern and Western art and spiritual traditions, highlighting universal human experiences—birth, death, and the unfolding of consciousness. As part of his exploration of sense perception as an avenue to self-knowledge over the past 35 years, Viola has pioneered video installations, sound environments, electronic music performances, and flat-panel video pieces that envelop the viewer in image and sound environments. He developed his taste for exotic and earth-centered images and sounds during early experimental studies at Syracuse University and his time in Florence, Italy; Southeast Asia; and Japan. In 2005, Viola, his wife/collaborator Kira Perov, and their two sons journeyed from their home in Long Beach, California to Dharamsala, India to record a prayer blessing with the Dalai Lama.
Music is an important part of Viola’s life and work; his roster of musical collaborators includes composer David Tudor, rock group Nine Inch Nails, director Peter Sellars, and conductor Esa Pekka Salonen (for a Wagner opera at Lincoln Center and the Paris National Opera). Viola’s works have been seen at venues including the U.S. Pavilion at the 46th Venice Biennale, 1995; the Whitney Museum 25-Year Survey, 1997; the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin and the Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2002; and Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum, 2006-2007 (one of his largest, best-attended exhibitions to date).
Bill Viola was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2000 and became a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters in France in 2006. His numerous awards include a 1989 MacArthur Foundation “genius” Award; MIT’s 2009 Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts; and 2009’s Catalonia International Prize.