Bill Viola is a California based video artist. He was born in New York in 1951 and received his B.A. from Syracuse University where he studied in the Experimental Studios of the College of Visual and Performing Arts. Viola’s work focuses primarily on expressing key human experiences such as life, death and love. He also infuses his work with elements and themes inspired by Zen Buddhism, Christian Mysticism and Islamic Sufism. Water is also a recurring theme within his work due to a near drowning experience he had as a youth while on a family vacation.
Water was one of the primary elements in Viola’s Ocean without a Shore presented at the 52nd Venice Biennale in 2007. Viola’s concept for this piece is remarkable in its concept in which the figures emerging from the darkness represent shadows of dead souls returning from the dead. I think the use of technology to create an invisible wall of water is really amazing and I find the use of the wall to create a transparent symbolic “veil” between the worlds of the living and the dead is very effective. Viola makes use of technology and special effects in his work in a way that is truly groundbreaking and refreshing.