Bill Viola

Bill Viola

Cameras are Soul Keepers

When video artist Bill Viola was 6 years old he fell into a lake, all the way to the bottom, to a place which seemed like paradise. "There's more than just the surface of life." Viola explains. "The real things are under the surface".

American Bill Viola (born 1951) is a pioneer in video art. In this interview, Viola talks about his development as an artist and his most important breakthroughs. As a child Bill Viola felt that the world inside his head was more real than the outside word. Viola discovered video in 1969. The blue light from the first camera he experienced reminded him of the water in that beautiful lake he almost died in when he was 6.

The first video piece Viola did on his own was "Tape I" from 1972, when he was still at university. Viola replaced the university art theories with his own secret underground path, through Islamic mystics, to Buddhism, to Christianity and finally to St John of the Cross. It was a very liberating experience for him, when he first started calling his artworks what they actually were to him.

Viola once felt that home videos should be kept separate to his artwork, but the sorrow of his mother's death, and the difficulty of understanding this transition from life to "disappearance", slowly changed his point of view. He realized that things could not be kept separate. Viola now sees the cameras as keepers of the soul, he explains. The medium holds onto life, a kind of understanding of feelings, keeping them alive.

Bill Viola was interviewed by Christian Lund, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, in London, 2011.

Camera: Marie Friis
Grading: Honey Biba Beckerlee
Edited by Martin Kogi
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2013

Supported by Nordea-fonden

  • Laurie Anderson

    Letter Exchange with JFK

    “Dear Senator Kennedy. I really admire the way you’re running your campaign. I’m running for president of my student council, can you send me some tips?” Find out what the soon-to-be president John F. Kennedy replied to a young Laurie Anderson’s letter.

  • Rachel Kushner

    The Final Sentence

    “I know the sensibility of what the final line is going to do – for me and for the reader.” Watch American novelist Rachel Kushner discuss the impact of the final line, and how she dislikes endings that “produce a sensation of an ellipsis.”

  • Colm Tóibín

    The Sentence Starting a Book

    In this short video, Colm Tóibín – known for acclaimed novels such as ‘Brooklyn’ and ‘The Master’ – discusses the important function of a novel’s first sentence as a catalyst for the rest of the book.

  • Doug Aitken

    The Nomadic Studio

    In this interview featuring extracts from Doug Aitken’s visually stunning videos, the American multimedia artist offers insight into his captivating work and how he learns from “watching things become a car crash in slow motion.”

  • Richard Ford

    Art is Heavy Lifting

    Watch Richard Ford on escaping the ‘southern writer’ label and how writing a novel is satisfyingly hard work: “Why should it be simple? Why shouldn’t it be a clerical nightmare? Why shouldn’t it take four years? That’s what I want it to be – a masterpiece.”

  • Joshua Oppenheimer

    Advice to the Young

    “Don’t listen to anyone who tells you how it should be done.” The commended American director Joshua Oppenheimer – nominated twice for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature – here shares his powerful advice for aspiring filmmakers.

  • Superflex

    Why We Flooded McDonald’s

    What motivates a Danish artists' group to make a movie where one of the most famous American fast food restaurants is inexplicably flooded? Superflex here comment on the content of their “post-apocalyptic movie” ‘Flooded McDonald’s’.

  • Peter Zumthor

    Different Kinds of Silence

    We visited Peter Zumthor – one of the world’s leading architects – in his studio in Switzerland. In this extensive and rare biographical video interview he tells the captivating story of his childhood, his studies in NYC and his parents’ strong influence.

  • Rachel Kushner

    Putting in the Hours

    “There’s something about habit that’s elemental.” American author Rachel Kushner has no doubt that consistent work on a novel is key. You never know when a moment of inspiration is going to hit – but when it does, you have to be there.

  • Margarethe von Trotta

    A Group of Rebels

    Award-winning film director Margarethe von Trotta – who has worked closely with the legendary directors Fassbinder and Schlöndorff – here shares the story of her winding road to becoming one of the leading contemporary German filmmakers.

  • Anna Bjerger

    It's All About Process

    “The painting moves me forward – and I follow.” Meet Swedish Anna Bjerger, who wants to preserve the excitement of painting, and who paints from photographs, feeling that she can somehow rescue images “that would otherwise disappear.”

  • 3 Artists

    On Yayoi Kusama’s Phalli’s Field

    An absorbing installation of mirrors and soft polka dots by Yayoi Kusama. Join artists Lilibeth Cuenca Rasmussen, Astrid Svangren and Alexander Tovborg as they explore what Kusama herself describes as “a sublime, miraculous field of phalluses.”