Saturday, April 20, 2013

Video is Not Film

Bill Viola with video camera © Russ Roca

Bill Viola (b. 1951), and his Australian partner Kira Perov spent three days at Lawrence University campus. Together they presented panel discussions, a work shop with Q&A session, an intimate lunch with students, and screenings of Viola's early video work.  Viola spoke repeatedly about today's digital technology, "We're experiencing an amazing renaissance and we don't even know it" he exclaimed. Viola's visit was spurred by a project curated by philosopher Christopher Zimmerman (LU '96) titled Bill Viola-Light, Time, Being focusing on screening Viola's early single channel video work from the 1970s and 1980s. In his 2011 essay titled "Video is Not Film", Zimmerman argues:
"...there is a tendency today to amalgamate film and video within the larger culture of the moving image. The accessibility and ubiquity of video and digital technology seem to have softened the once critical distinctions between two art forms. However, under closer scrutiny, the finer differences between film and video reveal essentially two different mediums, different developmental traditions, different apparatus producing different practices, and different aesthetic stances as to the meaning and significance of moving images." 
Zimmerman writes further on a number of topics relevant to Viola's video work from "Light and Reception" to "Being and Projection." Viola's experimental early videos screened in the Wriston Auditorium by Zimmerman on three consecutive evenings have been superseded by more polished projects shot at 3000 frames per second exploring themes of mortality and death according to Perov.

Viola performed himself as an artist with his head in the clouds wearing Buddhist Mala Beads and emphasizing the spiritual while needing to be reminded by studio manager Perov to organize his notes, address the audience question at hand, and/or use the restroom before taking the stage. Digital Processes student and Senior Studio Art Major Rachele Krivichi (LU '13) introduced Viola's convocation lecture. Viola's lecture on Tuesday, April 16, 2013, titled "Artless Art", included projections of this recent video projects such as Three Women (© 2008). Viola charged students with mindfully and responsibly using the digital technology that's "going into you in the deepest possible way". Use it as a tool, he advised, to merge the human soul and the digital.

Lawrence University Associate Professor of Art History Elizabeth Carlson facilitated Viola and Zimmerman's campus appearance sponsored by the Committee on Public Occasions. 

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