Bill Viola is a contemporary video artist. He is considered a leading figure in the generation of artists whose artistic expression depends upon electronic, sound, and image technology in New Media. His works focus on the ideas behind fundamental human experiences such as birth, death and aspects of consciousness. His art deals largely with the central themes of human consciousness and experience - birth, death, love, emotion and a kind of humanist spirituality. Throughout his career he has drawn meaning and inspiration from his deep interest in mystical traditions, especially Zen Buddhism, Christian mysticism and Islamic Sufism, often evident in the transcendental quality of some of his works. Equally, the subject matter and manner of western medieval and renaissance devotional art have informed his aesthetic.
An ongoing theme that he constantly explores is dualism, the idea that you can't understand what you're looking at unless you know its opposite. For example, a lot of his work has themes such as life and death, light
and dark, stressed and calm, loud and quiet.
Viola's work often exhibits a painterly quality, his use of ultra-slow motion video encouraging the viewer to sink into to the image and connect deeply to the meanings contained within it. This quality makes his work perhaps unusually accessible within a contemporary art context. As a consequence, his work often receives mixed reviews from critics, some of whom have noted a tendency toward grandiosity and obviousness in some of his work. Yet it is this very ambitiousness, his striving toward meaning, and attempts to deal with the big themes of human life, that also make his work so clearly appreciated by other critics, his audiences and collectors.
While many video artists have been quick to adopt new technologies to their medium, Viola relies little on computer editing. Perhaps the most technically challenging part of his work—and that which has benefited most from the advances since his earliest pieces—is his use of extreme slow motion.
Bill Viola Studio is run by his wife, Kira Perov, who is the executive director. She has worked with Viola since 1978 managing and assisting Viola with his videotapes and installations. She documents their work in progress on location. All of the production done at the studio is edited by Perov.
Viola felt as if there are 3 different structures to describe patterns of data structures. There is the branching structure, matrix structure, and schizo structure.
"The most common structure is called branching. In this structure, the viewer proceeds from the top to bottom in time."
The second structure is the Matrix structure. This structure describes media when it follows nonlinear progression through information. The viewer could enter at any point, move in any direction, at any speed, pop in and out at any place. The last structure is called the schizo, or the spaghetti model. This form of data structure pertains to pure or mostly randomness. "Everything is irrelevant and significant at the same time. Viewers may become lost in this structure and never find their way out."