MacArthur Fellows Program

Bill Viola

Video Artist | Class of 1989

Video Artist
Long Beach, California
38 at time of award
Area of Focus
Moving Image
Published August 1, 1989

About Bill's Work

Bill Viola is an artist who uses video and electronic media to explore the phenomena of sense perception as a language of the body and an avenue to self-knowledge.

Since 1973, Viola has created videotapes, architectural video installations, sound environments, electronic music performances, and works for television broadcast. His 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. His works focus on universal human experiences, such as birth, death, and the unfolding of consciousness, and have roots in both Eastern and Western art and spiritual traditions. His works include the Slowly Turning Narrative (1992), Tiny Deaths (1993), and The Messenger (1996), a video installation commissioned for the nine-hundred-year-old Durham Cathedral in Northern England. In 2002, he created one of his most ambitious projects, Going Forth By Day, a five-part, projected, digital, fresco cycle.


Viola has produced over 150 works that have been shown in museums, galleries, film festivals, and on public television worldwide. Solo exhibitions of his work have been organized by such institutions as the Whitney Museum of American Art, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and the ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum in Denmark.

Viola received a B.F.A (1973) from Syracuse University.

Last updated January 1, 2005.

Select News Coverage of Bill Viola
August 4, 2017
"Bill Viola at Deichtorhallen Hamburg"
Blouin Artinfo
Bill Viola , 1989 MacArthur Fellow
May 21, 2014
"Bill Viola on St Paul's Cathedral Commission: 'It Flummoxed Me'"
The Telegraph Art
Bill Viola , 1989 MacArthur Fellow
October 23, 2013
"A Contemporary View of Confinement"
The New York Times
Bill Viola, 1989 MacArthur Fellow
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