Observance

Bill Viola, 2002

WAG 2004.24

About this object

Image © Bill Viola Studio

In 1998 Viola was one of several scholars invited to the Getty Research Institute in California to study ‘The Representation of the Passions.’ The participants examined how artists in the past dealt with the challenge of arousing and depicting extremes of emotion through their work. They also considered how contemporary artists could learn from this.

As a result, Viola created a series of new videos, collectively called 'The Passions'. In these, inspired by historical religious paintings, he explores the intensity of the human spirit. His method is to use extreme slow motion concentrated on the faces and body movements of his performers.

Object specifics

  • Other title(s)
    Observance, 2002 (edition 4/5); Observance, 2002 (Edition 4/5)
  • Artist(s)
    Bill Viola (American, born:1951, died:unknown)
  • Date
    2002
  • Materials
    Colour high-definition video; Plasma display
  • Measurements
  • Physical description
    Single screen video installation. The film shows a group of actors standing one behind the other. They take it in turns to move to the front of the group. The film is in slow motion and it is silent. The artist has asked the actors to step forward to look at ‘something they’d rather not see…to say goodbye to someone who’d left them’. The actors' facial expressions and body language express distress. The colours of the actors' clothes are rich and vibrant, and echo paintings by Old Master painter Albrecht Dürer.
  • Related people
    Bill Viola (Artist/maker)
  • Credit line
    Purchased with the assistance of Art Fund in 2004.
  • Location
    Walker Art Gallery, Room 12
  • Collection
    From the Walker Art Gallery collections
Object view = Fine Art
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