Bill Viola. Presence and Absence
Bill Viola is fascinated by the idea of images as living organisms, created by senses and perception in the brain to become memory. In the artist’s writings, he describes memory like history: a filter. “Rather than being a past sense, memory becomes the future, informing all present actions and continually updated, modified, and invented.”1 In his video Memoria (2000), Viola explored ideas of presence and absence. Projected onto silk cloth, the ethereal image of a man’s face slowly appears amid flickering and staticky black-and-white electronic noise, then disintegrates like a signal disrupted, only to reappear on an endless loop. Viola used a low-grade surveillance camera to shoot the footage, resulting in a low-resolution image that transitions between visibility and obscurity. The material onto which the man’s presence manifests recalls the Shroud of Turin burial cloth and Veil of Veronica, pieces of fabric believed by some to miraculously depict images of Jesus.
Bill Viola, Reasons for Knocking at an Empty House (London: Thames and Hudson with Anthony d’Offay Gallery, 1995), 122. ↩︎