Bill Viola

American (New York City, New York, 1951)

Passage

1987
video installation | single-channel video installation with stereo sound
Not on view at this time; find out where you can see works from our collection at locations around the Bay Area while our building is closed for expansion
  • Passage

    Bill Viola, Passage, 1987; single-channel video installation with stereo sound, 144 in. x 720 in. x 192 in. (365.76 cm x 1828.8 cm x 487.68 cm); Collection SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund: gift of Mr. and Mrs. Donald Fisher, Susan and Robert Green, Pam and Dick Kramlich, and Mr. and Mrs. Brooks Walker, Jr.; © Bill Viola


Passage is an expression of Bill Viola's fascination with video; he considers the medium an intimate art form through which a private vision can become part of the public record. The title of the work pronounces his three-fold ambition: the passage into art of visual information and narrative relationships; the embrace of social rituals marking the passage of time as subject matter for art; and the message that constructions of memory and vision originate from primary experience.

In the installation, a long, narrow corridor leads to a small inner room where a large projection fills an entire wall. A videotape of a child's birthday party is being played in extreme slow motion, taking nearly seven hours to unfold. The architecture of the room places the viewer uncomfortably close to the image; the deep rumbling sound of children's voices fills the narrow space.

The speed of the video amplifies the slight, jarring movements of the handheld camerawork: every gesture overwhelms, small details ascend to symbolic proportion, and color is explosive. Viola uses this effect to ritualize the passage of time and to articulate the tensions between youth and old age, life and death.


144 in. x 720 in. x 192 in. (365.76 cm x 1828.8 cm x 487.68 cm)
Acquired 1990
Collection SFMOMA
Accessions Committee Fund: gift of Mr. and Mrs. Donald Fisher, Susan and Robert Green, Pam and Dick Kramlich, and Mr. and Mrs. Brooks Walker, Jr.
© Bill Viola
90.110.A-L

Tags

children, youth, men, faces, time, monumental, contrast, scale, proportions


From June 3, 2013, through early 2016, SFMOMA's building on Third Street in San Francisco will be temporarily closed for expansion construction. Selected artworks in our collection are included in a range of off-site exhibitions during this period. We regret that the remainder of the collection will not be available for study during this time.

In the meantime, we invite you to explore a wide selection of our collection online. Please note that the information presented online is subject to revision. Please contact us at collections@sfmoma.org to verify artwork details.

This resource is for educational use and its contents may not be reproduced without permission. Please review our Terms of Use for more information.