« Water is such an amazing element. It represents everything you could possibly think of. Water gives life and takes it away. It’s also reflection, refraction. But in The Dreamers, it’s an eternal state of being. It is a kind of vision of eternity. » Bill Viola
The Dreamers is a room-sized installation containing seven large flat panel screens that depict seven individuals submerged underwater at the bottom of a streambed. Their eyes are closed and they appear to be at peace. Water ripples across their bodies, subtly animating their movements. The sound of running water permeates the space as dreams filter through the room.
The Water Portraits series is a continuation of a life-long exploration of the element of water, the substance that is life itself. Water represents change, the passage of time (ever flowing), eternity, and is a metaphor for the unborn, for birth and rebirth, baptism, and reflection. Water is a powerful force that can never be contained. The water portraits are unsettling–water is not a natural environment for humans, but yet here are dreamers who seem to be content in this watery world that gently rocks them, dreamers who mysteriously seem to exist without the aid of breath.
Bill Viola is internationally recognized as one of the leading artists of our time, an acknowledged pioneer in the medium of video art. For over 40 years he has been making work that explores a series of humanistic and spiritual issues. His works include room-size video installations, sound environments, electronic music performances and flat panel video pieces, as well as works for television broadcast, concerts, opera, and sacred spaces.
Viola’s video installations – total environments that envelop the viewer in image and sound – employ state-of-the-art technologies and are distinguished by their precision and direct simplicity. They are shown in museums and galleries worldwide and are found in many distinguished collections. His single-channel videotapes have been widely broadcast and presented cinematically, while his writings have been extensively published and translated for international readers.
Bill Viola was born in New York in 1951 and graduated from Syracuse University in 1973. He represented the US at the Venice Biennale in 1995. Other key solo exhibitions include; Bill Viola: A 25-Year Survey organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art (1997); The Passions at the J.Paul Getty Museum (2003); Hatsu-Yume (First Dream) at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo (2006); Bill Viola, visioni interiori at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni, (2008); Bill Viola, Grand Palais, Paris (2014); and in 2017, four major exhibitions: Bill Viola. Electronic Renaissance, Palazzo Strozzi, Florence; Bill Viola: Installations, Deichtorhallen, Hamburg; Bill Viola: Retrospective, Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain; Bill Viola: Selected Work 1977–2014, Redtory Museum of Contemporary Art, Guangzhou, China; and Bill Viola/Michelangelo, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2019. Martyrs (Earth, Air, Fire, Water), the first of two permanent works created for St Paul’s Cathedral, London, was inaugurated in 2014, followed by Mary in 2016.
Viola is the recipient of numerous awards and honors including a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (1989). In 2006 he was awarded Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Government. In 2009 he received the XXI Catalonia International Prize in Barcelona, Spain and was awarded the Japan Art Association’s Praemium Imperiale art award in the category of painting in 2011. Viola was elected an Honorary Royal Academician in 2017.
Bill Viola and Kira Perov, his wife, long-time collaborator and executive director of Bill Viola Studio, live and work in Long Beach, California.