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Features of Bill Viola’s Multimedia Art

Published Date:2016-05-14 20:04
Features of Bill Viola’s Multimedia Art
Features of Bill Viola’s Multimedia Art
Multimedia art (also called new media art) is a new form of art which comes into being at the end of 20th century. It is not only the combination of language, pictures, sound, video, text and other medium, but also the integration of hearing, seeing, touching and tasting. Now, some of the major art museums already regard multimedia art as the category of conventional media art. They edit the collection and plan the exhibition of multimedia art the way they do for paintings, sculptures, photography and others.

Over the years, the American multimedia artist Bill Viola (1951-) has been capturing the movement of human and water with high definition camera and then display the process in a slow motion on the screen with amplified images. In this way, he expresses his multi-perspective interpretation of time through senses.

Visitation 2008,
Artist: Bill Viola
Color High-Definition video on plasma display mounted on wall
Like the display of Viola’s other works, the huge digital screen is the only light source in the totally dark exhibition room.

At the beginning of the video, there is only black and white snowflake shining on the screen. Later, amid the grainy appears a pair of black and white human images. As time goes on, the two figures approach gradually and it becomes clear that they are two old women. The curtain of falling water is invisible unless someone touches it.

The first woman goes through the curtain in doubt and fear. Then her image turns to high definition color. Encouraged by the first woman, the second one also travels through the curtain and turns to color. They cry and hug each other. The realm behind the curtain remains black and white while its front (faces the audience) is in color. They seem to be two different worlds.
In the end, the two old women slowly pass the curtain and retreat to the world of black and white, disappearing in the black and white snowflake.

What the artist wishes to express through the video is the passing of time and women’s quest and the paradox and helplessness of their mind. After conquering their doubt and fear, they go through the curtain of falling water and gain their rebirth. However, they have to go back to the boring and painful past in the end.

All through the video, the two characters are communicating with the audience through eye contact. There are no actors’ lines. You can hear only the sound of water and breath. The interactivity between the work and the audience is an important form of performance and also a way in which multimedia art express its themes.
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