Bill Viola was born in New York in 1951 and graduated from Syracuse University in 1973. A seminal figure in the field of video art, he has been creating installations, films, sound environments, flat panel video pieces and works for concerts, opera and sacred spaces for over four decades. Viola uses video to explore the phenomenon of sense perception as an avenue to self-knowledge. His works focus on universal human experiences and have roots in both Eastern and Western art as well as spiritual traditions, including Zen Buddhism, Islamic Sufism, and Christian Mysticism. Using the inner language of subjective thoughts and collective memories, his videos communicate to a wide audience, allowing viewers to experience the work directly, and in their own personal way.
Viola represented the US at the Venice Biennale in 1995. Other key solo exhibitions include: Bill Viola: A 25-Year Survey, The Whitney Museum of American Art (1997); The Passions, J. Paul Getty Museum (2003); Bill Viola – Visions, ARoS, Aarhus (2005); Hatsu-Yume (First Dream), Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2006); Bill Viola, visioni interior, Palazzo delle Esposizioni (2008); Bill Viola: Reflections, Villa di Panza, Varese (2012); Bill Viola, Grand Palais, Paris (2014); Bill Viola. Electronic Renaissance, Palazzo Strozzi, Florence; Bill Viola. Installations, Deichtorhallen, Hamburg; Bill Viola. Retrospective, Guggenheim Bilbao; Bill Viola: Selected Work 1977–2014, Redtory Museum of Contemporary Art, Guangzhou, China (all 2017). In 2004, Viola created a four-hour long video for Peter Sellars’ production of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde that has had many performances in the US, Canada, Europe and Japan.
Viola has received numerous awards including the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (1989), XXI Catalonia International Prize (2009), the Praemium Imperiale from the Japan Art Association (2011), and was elected an Honorary member to the Royal Academy, London in 2017.