Fern's research in Bill Viola and Vito Acconci



Bill Viola


Bill Viola (1951-present) is an American contemporary video/electronic artist. The main concept of most of his work is usually about the human experience of birth, life, death and also consciousness relating to Christianity, which I found pretty related to Buddhism as well.

The distinguished characteristic of his work is the capturing of movements in slow motion. With his obsession with water, a lot of his works has to do with passing through water curtains and together with the slow motion; you can see the splash of water droplets very beautifully. I think it is erotic because of the excitement aroused by seeing the movements of what is usually unseen or can’t be seen by naked eyes.

The followings are some examples of his works:

The Crossing (1996), Bill Viola

The Crossing consists of a large screen displaying videos on both sides. One side shows a man walking towards the audience in slow motion and while he's walking, a fire starts to burn him. The fire climbs up his body until the man is entirely covered in flames, then he disappeared. On the other side of the screen is similar, but instead of fire, it has water falling from above, again the man disappeared. Both videos are accomplished with sounds. The opposite natural elements seem to balance out in his work.
Ocean without a shore (2007), Bill Viola
Ocean without a shore consists of 3 video screens. They are showing the people approach slowly from behind an invisible wall of water curtain. At the back of the water wall, the people are in gray tones, and as pass through the barrier the colors appeared. This work is portraying the idea of coming back to life. He described his work as “a series of encounters at the intersection between life and death.”

Interested key ideas
  •  threshold/barrier between 2 areas/spaces separating two contrast ideas
  • use of architectural spaces i.e. exhibit his work in chapel because the concept of installation is related to Christianity
  • emphasizing the movement of what's usually unseen





Vito Acconci

Vito Acconci (1940-present) is an American performance, installation and video artist. His works involves his own body as a subject for the photographs, films, or performance. His works are known to communicate disturbing and unnerving aspects. Comparing to Bill Viola, Acconci has got more variety style of working. His main concept was to experiment with people's feelings and deep social psychological.

Acconci's works also involve the idea of 'narcissism' or the excessive/erotic interest in oneself or one's physical apperance. The sense of erocticism in Acconci's works is more obvious than Viola's. His performances are pretty straight forward and this led to extreme controversy.

The followings are some examples of his works:

Pull (1971), Vito Acconci
Pull is a performance by Acconci and his partner, Kathy Dillion. He walks in a circle around Dillon, while she moves in the center. Staring at each other, they try to maintain eye contact while following the other's changes in direction and speed.  The confrontation became more and more aggressive and intense. Acconci has stated, "I might be trying to crowd her, drive her to a standstill — she might be trying to draw me into her, stop me from circling... I might be trying to remain an observer, detached, on the outside." This performance leads to the idea of feminism and how females are being the victim of threatening. There's another work of Acconci where he displayed the opposite idea, where male is a victim of woman instead. 

Seedbed (1972), Vito Acconci

Seedbed (1972), Vito Acconci
Seedbed is probably his most well-known work. He built a low wooden ramp merging with the floor. Acconci was hidden underneath the ramp and masturbating, while speaking the fantasies about the visitors walking above him through loudspeakers in the gallery. 
This works shows the interaction and relationship between the artist and the audience. It is interesting how he became part of the architecture himself and nobody could see him, which enhances the eroticism of the workpiece.

Interested key ideas
  • connection between artist and audience, inside and outside, public and private
  • artist becoming the space
  • social psychology, confronting disturbing situations, narcissism








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