From Publishers Weekly
It's not easy to encapsulate the work of a video artist in an exhibit catalogue, but Viola's art lends itself to stills and those stills to long scrutiny. His 20 recent videos called The Passions feature close-ups of faces on a black background distraught, happy or fearful frame-by-frame. Setting the work in a post- September-11th context, curator and former Getty Museum director Walsh finds that by displaying other human beings and thus ourselves in extremis, Viola bypasses the rational intellect and causes disturbances against which we are normally well defended. Disturbed, we are no longer mere spectators. Some of the work consists of a single performer moving through an arc of intensity, as in Dolorosa, but Going Forth by Day involved elaborate sets, stunt performers and hundreds of extras. As an exhibition catalogue (for a show currently at the Getty in Los Angeles) with a chronology, bibliography and essays by Walsh and theater director Peter Sellars, a multifaceted account of Viola's career and creative methods compete for attention with the work. Also included is a conversation between Viola and Hans Belting, a professor at the School For New Media, and an enticing reproduction of the artist's handwritten production notebook/journal How to take the intellect, clever, deceiving, insightful, and, through sheer force of will, forge it into the emotional? he asks himself in his nondescript print. Juxtaposed with the notebook entries are works by other artists from other ages mostly masters from the European Renaissance, as well as Indian and Arab masterworks. When one turns back to the emotive heads in Viola's still frames, human feeling crosses centuries.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Human emotions are the subject of "The Passions", a series of 20 video works made by the contemporary artist Bill Viola (b. 1951). Since the mid-1970s, Viola's video installations have dealt with themes of perception, memory and self-knowledge. In these new works he has grappled with one of the oldest problems in art: how to convey the power and complexity of emotion by depicting the facial expressions and body language of models or, in Viola's case, of performers. Written to accompany an exhibition on view at the Getty Museum from 24th January to 27th April 2003, and which will unveil "Emergence" - a new, commissioned work in the "Passions" series -this is an exploration of the genesis and meaning of this extraordinary suite of works. In an opening essay, John Walsh traces Viola's career and examines the intellectual and psychological concerns that have preoccupied Viola over the years. Walsh then offers a first-person account of Viola's filming of "Emergence". A conversation between Viola and Hans Belting reveals Viola's current interests and the role that older works of art have played in his development. Peter Sellars explores the spiritual foundation of Viola's work. In addition, Viola presents both images and texts that served as sources for many of the "Passions" works. Finally, selected frames from the "Passions" works are reproduced, with explanatory notes by the artist.