past exhibition

Bill Viola

June 8–September 8, 2019

Bill Viola, The Raft, May 2004, video/sound installation. Courtesy Bill Viola Studio, James Cohan Gallery, New York and American Federation of Arts. Photo: Kira Perov.

The Raft (2004), a defining achievement in video installation, exemplifies Bill Viola’s powerfully affecting work. Projected at life size, a group of people casually stand together. Suddenly, they are inundated with a rush of water that overtakes them, and then, just as unexpectedly, recedes. Their reactions, as they huddle together, some seeking protection and others helping those who have fallen, are meticulously captured in slow motion. The viewer experiences this event close up and on a grand scale, in a darkened room and surrounded by the roaring sounds of the water.


The Raft inspires a reflection on the range of human responses to crisis – natural and manmade, from mythic floods to contemporary natural disasters. There is no raft in sight to provide safety. The stirring imagery of The Raft raises moral and spiritual questions. How would one react to such an overwhelming event? How responsible are we for one another? Should we stand alone or help those in need?


Bill Viola (b. 1951, Queens, N.Y.) is a pivotal figure in the development of video and installation art. For more than four decades, Viola has created video work, architectural video installations, sound environments, electronic music performances, and works for television broadcast. He explores universal human experiences and is inspired by diverse spiritual traditions, including Christian mysticism, Islamic Sufism, and Zen Buddhism. Viola has exhibited internationally. Among his numerous accolades, he has received a Getty Research Institute Fellowship and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.


This presentation of Bill Viola: The Raft is organized by the American Federation of Arts (AFA) and Bill Viola Studio. The Raft is part of ArtRoom, an ongoing series of contemporary art installations organized by the AFA

This presentation is made possible, in part, by funds from the A.R. Brooks Trust.

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