The Passing, 1991, opens with an image of the night sky, which changes into a sheet of water in which a draped human figure struggles not to drown. Will he be saved? It seems so: a suicidal leap into water reverses itself, the leaper returning to the sky. But then the artist appears underwater, as though drowned, or, perhaps, as though identifying with his child in the womb—or is it with his mother? The tape is ostensibly about the child’s birth and the mother’s death, which coincided closely. Yet the the real content and mystery of The Passing are the emergence from water and the sinking beneath it. The family milestones are not of the tape’s essence—they simply provide occastions, however complex, for the drowning image, which recurs in virtually all Viola’s works. —thefreelibrary
Bill Viola (b.1951) is internationally recognized as one of today’s leading artists. He has been instrumental in the establishment of video as a vital form of contemporary art, and in so doing has helped to greatly expand its scope in terms of technology, content, and historical reach. For over 35 years he has created videotapes, architectural video installations, sound environments, electronic music performances, flat panel video pieces, and works for television broadcast. Viola’s 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. They are shown in museums and galleries worldwide and are found in many distinguished collections. His single channel videotapes have been widely broadcast and presented cinematically, while his writings have been extensively published, and translated for international readers. Viola uses video to explore the phenomena of sense… read more
At times, this film felt like it was presenting the exact kind of images that I wanted to create in my own films. A very peculiar thing. One of the most wonderful films I could hope to see.