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Absolute Installation

Bill Viola

Bill Viola has been working with electronic media since he studied at Syracuse University in New York State. He has explored and developed video and sound installation as an artistic medium for over 35 years. Since the early 1990s Viola has worked with large-scale video installations, such as "Pneuma" from 1994.

© Bill Viola, Pneuma, 1994, videoinstallation, loop, still pitures

The ancient Greek word, “pneuma” has several different meanings and can be translated variously as spirit, soul or breath. Pneuma could be interpreted as the underlying source of life, that which flows through the entire natural world. In his artistic activity, Viola has worked with existential questions of life and death, with a background informed by both eastern and western thinking, Zen Buddhism and Christian mysticism.

The installation Pneuma is presented with three images projected on the wall of a dark room. We see different subjects, images of children playing, buildings in the distance, tree branches, interiors and a field of flowers. The frame of the projections is not clearly defined, but fills more than a wall, something which creates a floating motion. The images are grainy. The soundtrack and the closed feeling in the room, along with the images’ grainy appearance create a dreamlike atmosphere. In this way these images function more like images from memory than recordings of actual places and events.

Pneuma was originally produced for the exhibition Landscape as Metaphor at the Denver Art Museum, Denver and the Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus Ohio. In 1995 Pneuma was the USA’s contribution to the Venice Biennale.

Bill Viola was born in New York in 1951. He lives and works in Long Beach, California.


Eva Klerck Gange