When, in a 1998 article, Peter Lunenfeld described video as ‘simultaneously exhausted and energized’01 he gave expression to the extraordinary success with which audio-visual media have been transforming a whole gamut of cultural production over the last decades. From the museum’s white cube to the dingy dungeons of underground clubs; from nose cones of smart bombs to You’ve Been Framed; from Driving School and Police Stop! to the Rodney King tape and Jamie Bulger’s abduction02; from Sojourner’s Marsian panoramas03 and the Web Cam phenomenon to Video Nation - the sheer gravitational pull of video imagery seems both, irresistible and crushing. Marc Mayer concedes in a 1996 exhibition catalogue that
[…] video’s theoretical and practical possibilities are so inconceivably vast, its versatility so immeasurably profound and of such perplexing unorthodoxy, that even after a quarter of a century, the medium’s defenders are still struck with vertiginous awe as if glimpsing the sublime. 04
Yet there seems to be little time to remain struck with ‘vertiginous awe’ in the face of video’s tantalizing possibilities since the medium is itself becoming engulfed in a much wider and further-reaching re-framing of representational politics: the shift towards digitization. The availability of cheap processing power, coupled with the unlimited flexibility of digital data, as it flows with the speed of light from one node to another, has already brought about an uncanny convergence of previously separate media. This re-framing can be witnessed in particular in its implications on film, photography, music and the graphic arts. With the increasing convergence of digital media, video is set to become but a significant part of a much broader drive towards a more ‘spectacular’ culture and its manifestations in, what is euphemistically called, Media Art..05 Hans-Peter Schwarz from the Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie (ZKM) in Karlsruhe anticipates nothing less than a paradigm shift:
[…], a new art form rattles at the gates of the museum - not to get in this time […], but to deposit an explosive charge, which could […] break down or at least make holes in the firm walls behind which the museum protects its treasures […]: the art of the digital communications media.06
From the early days of video art as a potentially subversive practice07 to the total absorption of audio-visual media into 1990s’ consumer culture, traditional institutional politics are coming under increasing pressure. Whilst video art in the 1960s and 70s could be understood as an oppositional gesture, critiquing the signifying practices of the television medium, the 1980s and 90s 08 have brought about an unprecedented ‘cult surrounding electronic images’, one in which video plays an essential part by ‘linking together the planes of space and time, fiction and reality, the critical discourse and the everyday.’ 09 Today, it seems, video art no longer operates from the fringes, away from the mainstream of cultural production, but as ‘an integrative “lingua franca”’ 10 of visual culture per se. In its poignant pairing of high technology with ubiquity, video, embedded in the broad text of Media Art, contradicts the selective and highly ‘competent’ curatorship, which traditional institutional practice necessitates. Exactly how could video art be exhibited without transforming the white cube into a communal television-viewing facility, a commercial theme-park or the secular chill-out lounge of a dance-venue?
The trend towards large-scale video installations, which is evident in a recent series of ‘blockbuster’ exhibitions, has to be seen as a counter-movement, as an answer to video’s full-scale immersion into mainstream culture. An affirmation of a canon of ‘great masters’ in video art would then be inversely proportionate to its lost autonomy, its lost independence.11 Perhaps by celebrating the ‘unique’, the ‘extraordinary’, the ‘overwhelming’, or simply the sheer scale of a select few works, institutional practice seeks to re-affirm the object of art and the role of the artist.
Having won numerous awards and fellowships, Bill Viola is, without doubt, amongst the most established and celebrated artists at work today; he is, to be sure, an undisputed member of that canon of ‘great masters’.12 Bill Viola’s pieces are known to operate on a grand scale and with an astonishing degree of technological sophistication, often rivaling that of commercial film-production. Whilst his latest work is characteristic of a certain tendency, which Elaine King, in a 1998 review of Viola’s work, aptly described as a propensity towards ‘Wagnerian theatricality’ or even ‘showiness’13, some of his earlier pieces seem more ‘subdued’. One of these more ‘subdued’ pieces is called ‘The Passing’.
In choosing to discuss one particular text in preference to any other possible choice, I acknowledge the near tautological dilemma, which is immanent in all critical writing: selection foregrounds interpretation and the interpretation of culture from within culture cannot be situated outside culture. My choice, then, has to be explained as contingent upon a certain number of presuppositions, which may or may not be extracted from material parameters accessible through the work itself. This project of significant signification, as it is constructed around a number of specific notions and projected onto the work and its interaction with the surrounding culture, could be described as the work’s discursivity.14 Any imbalance, disturbance, interruption or even absence in the semiotic economy of the thing itself and its immersion in the here-and-now, renders an exchange possible, facilitates discursivity. According to Saussure, this economic metaphor depends on a measure of difference, which is necessary for the resumption of an exchange: for difference implies process and process implies difference.15 Sameness on the other hand levels the flow and terminates the exchange.16 With no osmotic potential manifest in the work, and no exchange between the work and its exterior meta-texts, any discursivity that could emanate from or be projected back onto the text must stall, leading to stasis and closure. A question, then, has to be formulated as to how we can assess the potential for discursivity inherent in a given text.
To make available and assess the potential for discursivity in ‘The Passing’, I intend to describe origination, format, technology and the distribution of this tape first, before I proceed with a discussion of medium-specificity and its ideological superstructure.17 Tracing a lineage of deterministic criticality, from Greenberg via Fried, Krauss and Williams to Frederic Jameson I propose to query the notion of ‘total flow’ and its validity in a context of contemporary sensibilities. ‘The Passing’ could be regarded as almost emblematic in this debate since it seems to be situated exactly in between critical positions. It is through ‘The Passing’ that Viola literally passes on to a television audience his subjectivity 18, transmitting images of deep personal traumas, experiences, and visions. In doing so ‘The Passing’ not only exemplifies the very possibility of publicly broadcast video-art but also, and at the same time, its narcissistic overtones. In addition, ‘The Passing’ seems to stand out as one of only a few low-key, single monitor pieces in Viola’s recent decidedly theatrical and sculptural video-oeuvre.19 This then will serve to highlight the intriguing dialectic inherent in video art as it moves between institutionalized cult and mass-mediated mainstream.
In my conclusion I will argue for a revised notion of ‘total flow’ to facilitate discursivity in contemporary video art.
‘The Passing’ is a single monitor, monochrome video tape, which was commissioned by the public German television station Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF) as part of its Das Kleine Fernsehspiel 20 slot and jointly funded with the American National Endowment for the Arts in 1991. The 54 minute tape premiered on October 14, 1992 at 10:40 p.m. on ZDF and was broadcast in Britain on Channel Four to coincide with a survey of Viola’s work at London’s Whitechapel Art Gallery, in December 1993.
Viola shot the sequences for ‘The Passing’ between 1987 and 1991 at or near his Long Beach home as well as on various locations in the scenic American West 21(Plates 5, 6 and 9; pp. 31, 32 and 35). Employing sophisticated night-sight, infra-red, and ultra-low-light imaging technology, many of the desert shots appear to be taken in total darkness. Interspersed with the landscape footage we can discern, more or less clearly, a catalogue of persistent images: a bearded man (Viola; Plate 1, p. 27) in close-up, an elderly woman in a hospital bed (Viola’s mother Wynne Lee Viola; Plate 4, p.30), a child (Viola’s first son Blake; Plate 3,p. 29) playing on a beach and at a birthday party, a new-born baby (Viola’s second son Andrei) and a man floating under water, tangled up in white sheets of fabric (Plate 7, p. 33). The faint likeness of a young woman (His wife Kira Perov or perhaps Viola’s mother?) is revealed briefly before it disappears from view again. A freight train emerges slowly from a tunnel (Plate 2, p.28) with screeching wheels before it heaves past and into the night.
The repeated recurrence of some of these motifs places ‘The Passing’ firmly in the context of Viola’s oeuvre as a whole, albeit on a less monumental scale than usual. Amongst the various meta-forms, which Viola seems to employ, his insistence on the water metaphor (Plate 10; p. 36) and the juxtaposition of ’old’ (death) with young (birth), stand out as particularly noticeable.22 Similar parallels to Viola’s other, more sculptural pieces, can be found in his masterly manipulation of audio and the centrality, which it occupies in this tape. As is the case in many of his other works (sic.), sound seems absolutely indispensable to ‘The Passing’, too. For it is the tape’s overwhelming score of steady breathing that conditions the audience irrevocably towards the pre-text ‘sleep’. Every now and then, however, the breathing seems to fade and we can hear muffled and strangely drained sounds, which appear to be choreographed to coincide with the stream of images. Cleverly manipulating amplitude and wavelength of the recording, Viola creates sound-scapes, which amplify the spatio-temporal element in his work. Water sounds heavy, gelatinous and enveloping; children’s laughter seems to literally drift past, a constant drone accompanies the hospital scenes and then again: breathing, slow and steady, only occasionally interspersed with the bodily sounds of saliva and swallowing. Overall, the sound is instrumental in creating and constantly re-affirming the spatial intimacy, which seems to enshroud the viewer. We are literally invited into the enticing sensuality of Viola’s dream-world and placed as close to the physicality of those who are involved in it, as the medium permits. It appears as if we are made to feel that we have indeed become a part of Viola’s extended family of man.23
In ‘The Passing’ Viola develops the narrative of a sleeper (Viola himself), who is slowly falling a sleep and waking up just to finally drift away again. As his mind ebbs and flows along the no-mans-land of consciousness, that in-between-state, where the physical being seems to dissolve into a repository of intermingling sounds and images, the audience is there to bear witness.
The tape’s blurred, luminous and auratic timbre entices the viewer to accompany Viola on his passage into the semi- and sub-conscious, yet the title of the piece does not just seem to allude to a passing between different states of consciousness, it also evokes the grander narratives of life and death. For it could be argued that the making of ‘The Passing’ coincided with a period of personal crisis and trauma in Viola’s own life.24 In a 1997 article and interview for Art News, Viola, together with author Hunter Drohojowska-Philip, attempted to retrace his life in the years between 1987 and 1991. A compelling autobiographic narrative emerged, which, if taken into account, could establish a valuable pre-text to the work in question. After years of successful work as an established video artist, numerous installations which ‘increased in length and complexity, and visual pyrotechnics, the demanding exhibition schedule began to take a toll’25 To find ‘relief’26, he and his wife traveled for five months through the American South-West. Yet nothing seemed to work: ‘I had a creative block and couldn’t get the images to work [...] It was a difficult time’. 27 The death of Viola’s mother two years later and the birth of his second son Andrei within nine month of her death, ‘focussed [his] investigations in a very real way’.28 Viola finished ‘The Passing’ that same year (1991) and a further nine new installations in the following 12 month.
The making of ‘The Passing’ coincided with the introduction of the 8mm videotape format in 1988, which opened the production of video to the home-user. In its wake, a new wave of ‘reality-tv’ programming arrived and subsequently became an integral part of public broadcasting schedules. Shows like Cops, America’s Funniest Home Video’s, America’s Most Wanted and I Witness Video appear and firmly establish the use of video/camcorder footage as part of popular TV formats around the world. With the availability of cheap and good quality recording technologies, the balance of video usage shifts from the purely passive mode of absorption (video-rentals, MTV) towards a more involved mode of production-consumption. Firmly embedded in the ‘spectacular’ consumer economics of the late 1980s and 90s, the camcorder revolution begins to have an impact on the domestic photo-album as the site of ‘social memory’.29 Sean Cubitt, in his interpretation of ‘The Passing’, acknowledges:
There are elements of The Passing that read as images from a family album, albeit an unusual one, in that it includes what is most often excluded from the family’s set of recollections - images of dying and death - along with toddlers’ first steps, birth and holidays.30
As video diaries begin to supplant family snapshots in their role of affirming individual identity by embedding it in social ritual, the currency of the ubiquitous video image is further augmented through the stream of images released in conjunction with the use of high-tech weaponry in the 1991 Gulf War. 31
To be sure, the practice of video production and consumption changed dramatically. 32 With the increasing availability of 8mm tape and home-video camcorders, the technology necessary to make video more widely accessible, had finally arrived. 33 Bill Viola’s ‘The Passing’ was made and publicly broadcast at a time of significant changes to the video economy as a whole; changes, which subsequently decentralized and dismantled the mediums exclusivity and yet affirmed its role in the powerplay of capitalist politics.
‘The Passing’ is available for viewing from the Film and Video Umbrella in London, éditions à voir in Amsterdam and the Electronic Arts Intermix in the US.
We have now established a number of discursive spaces, within which ‘The Passing’ can be seen to operate. Its historic specificity can inject meaning and significance into the web of possible readings, which might be spun around its textuality. The process of inscribing significance by opening up or making available a work’s discursivity is now leading to specific readings in specific contexts. ‘The Passing’ can begin to function as a ‘significant’ text, which highlights a particular point in the development of a genre, a significant period in the life and work of its author and the broader historical context of its time. It can be seen as symptomatic for a notion of change, both in socio-historical as well as in strictly autobiographical terms. Its origination in the late 1980s and early 1990s places it at an important juncture in video art practice and visual culture on the whole. If the discursive space, within which ‘The Passing’ operates, can be identified as a particularly significant (made meaningful through signification) moment in time, in its art-historic, autobiographic as well as socio-economic associations, we can perhaps regard ‘The Passing’ as a point of departure. It could be seen as a moment when video-art as a genre moved towards more theatrical, sculptural and installation based work, due to the widespread availability of cheap video-recording technology. As Dave Beech so aptly observed:
Video art used to be routinely shoved into the corner of the gallery on little monitors. Now, with the development of the looped tape and the use of large-scale video projection, it has learnt how to give painting and sculpture a run for their money. Video projection is to the 90s art what shop display was to the art of the 80s: a trademark by default. 34
The 1990s public, it seems, does not any longer ‘come to museums looking for more television to watch’.35 Instead, artists are ‘now poised before the prospect of creating a categorically different species of video monster, a monstrous theater that television cannot emulate.’36 To be sure, Bill Viola’s work, as it developed from the making of ‘The Passing’ to his more recent pieces (sic.), can be seen as symptomatic for just such an attitude. This, then, imbues ‘The Passing’ with significance that cannot be derived from the web of discursivity , which resideswithin the work and its formalist attitude, but from its relation to the exterior historicity of its own medium.37 The currency of the video-diary format, as an increasingly popular means for the production of social identity, must equally be seen in the context of socio-economic developments, which actually provided the means necessary for such a shift (sic.). ‘The Passing’, with its fly-on-the-wall disposition and its unashamed display of private emotions and traumas, fits quite neatly into the narrative of 1990s image production-consumption. For we can easily discern an acutely personal sensibility in its audio-visual narrative, eager to be shared with as large an audience as possible. In keeping with the modus operandi of the video-diary genre, we can safely deduce that the title of the piece implies ’the passing on of the artist’s mother and the passing on of genetic and cultural material to his infant son, […] the passing of time, […] and a passing between dream and waking.’38 All, one might add, intensely private moments, which are nevertheless shared with a potentially large community of television viewers. Pierre Bourdieu, in his sociological analysis of popular photographic practice, examines the currency of the ‘ordinary’ in domestic image production.
Unlike fully consecrated artistic activities, such as painting or music, photographic practice is considered accessible to everyone, […] and those involved in it do not feel they are being measured against an explicit and codified system defining legitimate practice in terms of its objects, its occasions and its modalities; [...].39
The same could, perhaps, be said about the inherent nature of the video-diary format, since the opening of video production to the average household went hand in hand with the introduction of the 8mm format. To be sure, the implication of the ‘private’ and ‘personal’ in ‘The Passing’ does point towards an aesthetic of ‘The Everyday’ as opposed to the institutional regimes of competence and connoisseurship.
If ‘The Passing’ can be understood to operate in the gap between an increasingly sculptural tendency in video art on the one hand and, to phrase it with Benjamin, its widening ‘secularisation’40, manifest in video’s mass-mediated assimilation in television culture, on the other; if ‘The Passing’ can be situated exactly between these two emergent positions, what does it say about the nature of video art and its possibilities in the early 1990s in general and the medium-specificity of ‘The Passing’ in particular? Or, to ask with Rosalind Krauss: within what discursive space does video, as a medium, operate today?
When Theodor Adorno criticized Benjamin’s notion of the art object as cult object and instead expressed his own idea of how art’s autonomy could be achieved through the ‘uttermost consistency in the pursuit of [its] technical laws’41, he foreshadowed the up-coming debates around medium-specificity, which subsequently attained currency in Greenbergian modernism. In a controversy, which found its continuation in the writings of Michael Fried, Raymond Williams, Rosalind Krauss and Fredric Jameson, the object of art itself is at stake. For apart from notional differences, a certain consensus seemed to imply that the dialectic within a work of art could be traced back to the materiality of its component parts. An investigation into the specificities of the medium and its different genres could unearth technical laws, which would govern the practice of artistic expression. Only through a complete understanding of the technical laws, which are understood to govern this or that particular medium, could a discourse be opened. This implied that a given medium had to be firstly comprehended in its essence and its qualities before any critical engagement could commence. According to Clement Greenberg, in Towards a newer Laoocon, the ‘purity’ of a work of art was primarily contingent upon its adherence to and acknowledgment ‘of the limitations of the medium of the specific art’.42 By emphasizing the ‘medium and its difficulties, […] the purely plastic, the proper, values of visual art come to the fore. Overpower the medium to the point where all sense of its resistance disappears, and the adventitious uses of art become more important.’43 Defending the increasingly untenable Greenbergian notion of ‘purity’ in art, Michael Fried, in his 1967 Art and Objecthood, distinguishes between the ‘theatricality’ of ‘literalist’ art, from art, which succeeds in suspending its own objecthood. Fried writes:
[…] the presence of literalist art, which Greenberg was the first to analyze, is basically a theatrical effect or quality - a kind of stage presence. It is a function, not just of the obtrusiveness and, often, even aggressiveness of literalist work, but of the special complicity that that work extorts from the beholder.44
If theatricality was to be avoided at all costs, it had to be done through a strict adherence to the medium’s specific properties, which – in the case of painting – were defined by the two-dimensional surface of the canvas. Any attempt to emphasize properties, which were considered foreign to the essence of the medium would lead away from a suspension of objecthood and instead towards ‘theatricality’. For Fried, ‘the success, even the survival, of the arts has come increasingly to depend on their ability to defeat theatre.’45
The currency of the Greenbergian debate, to be sure, extends beyond its repercussions on modernist painting and sculpture. Since it puts forward the essentialist position that a medium possess quantifiable properties, which can be recognized and identified, it continues to underscore, well into the 1970s and 80s the debates around video-art and television. The classification of essential determinants is here seen as an important part of the critical discourse around the work itself. If video-art was to be taken seriously, its basic properties had to be defined in relation to television and visual culture as a whole. Despite post-structuralist approaches towards the ‘textuality’ of a work, its suspension in a process of endless signification,‘that pure and random play of signifiers that we call postmodernism’46, some agreement as to the essence of video and television seems to transpire. Vito Acconci, an early practitioner in video-art, described the television experience as a ‘wave of sameness, about to enter everywhere’47 which could either be seen as threatening or reassuring. He observes:
Television broadcasts the same programme, all over a particular country, at the same time. […]. When a TV set, in a particular household is turned off, that world is lying in wait, the world-within-the-TV-set ready to erupt, to flash on ‘in the middle of things’ (the plot has already been going on without us). ‘It’ is always there, though we might not be yet, we might not be watching. But people in some other house are already watching [...].48
The idea that television could be seen as a never-ending stream of images, ubiquitous and ever present, a parallel universe of audio-visual representations, can also be found in Raymond Williams notion of television as ‘planned flow’.49 Television, then, does not have a beginning or end, it just flows in a continuous, time and space defying gesture. According to this definition, television does not engender the kind of agency which facilitates interruption, the means necessary to render Brecht’s theatre epic in order to counteract the illusion of immersion in the audience. Television is totally enveloping in its spatio-temporal signal, since it pronounces the suspension of time in the moebius-strip of endless transmission. Television’s essential quality, so it would seem, is its eternal proximity. Sean Cubitt talks about ‘the here-and-now-ness of the broadcast event’50 while Fredric Jameson asserts: ‘it seems plausible that in a situation of total flow, the contents of the screen streaming before us all day long without interruption […], what used to be called ‘critical distance’ seems to have become obsolete.’51 Donald Kuspit characterizes television as ‘simply a flowing fantasy’52, in which the autonomous self of the viewing subject dissolves since it ‘can no longer make that distinction between absence and presence.’53
In theorizing video, critics have tended to subscribe to the idea of ‘total flow’ as the basis for an understanding of the specific properties of the new medium of video art. Yet with the inclusion of the camera into the loop of ‘total flow’, some additional points need to be made since, ‘unlike the other visual arts, video is capable of recording and transmitting at the same time - producing instant feedback.’54 Rosalind Krauss, in Video: The Aesthetics of Narcissism, presents the subject as captured in ‘the prison of a collapsed present, that is, a present time which is completely severed from a sense of its own past.’55 In it, she argues, the ‘consciousness of temporality and of separation between subject and object are simultaneously submerged.’56 With this ‘vanquishing of separateness’57, video’s discursive space is one of autistic closure. It does not suggest absences, imbalances or interruptions, for its instantaneous feedback mirrors the world onto itself in a tautological state of perpetual presence. This inherently solipsistic position, according to Krauss, can be identified as Video’s essence. With the suspension of spatio-temporal coordinates, video cannot refer to anything ‘other’, anything external, but its own failure of referral. Sigmund Freud, in a 1914 treatise, identified the ‘introversion of the libido’ as the state when the subject seems to have ‘withdrawn his libido from people and things in the external world, without replacing them by others in phantasy.’58 Freud describes this as a position in which ‘the libido that has been withdrawn from the external world has been directed to the ego and thus gives rise to an attitude which may be called narcissism.’59 This finding, according to Krauss, lends currency to both, an analysis of the individual’s forming of subjectivity, as well as the structural integrity of the social body as a whole. In a heavily audio-visualized environment, the attitude of narcissism, then, could be identified in the individual as well as the group, or society as a whole.
The compelling accuracy of this critique and its discourse of closure, suspension and solipsism is reflected in many fascinating early pieces by video artists of the 1960s and 70s.60 However, with the success of MTV, the introduction of cheap camcorders, the growing popularity of rapid-editing techniques, and a trend towards theatricality in an increasing number of video installations, video art’s locus seemed to gradually shift away from the formalist attitude (i.e. the preservation of the medium’s specificity) that is implied in Krauss’ critique. The formalist attitude would insinuate that ‘pure’ video art, would inevitably have to privilege the notion of technology over aesthetic concerns. Video, inasmuch as it is seamlessly embedded in the total flow of television, could only continuously refer back to its own self-referentiality. When staged, however, as a spatio-temporal singularity in the heroic guise of a sculptural installation, video-art interjects once again the trusted theatricality of the Cartesian subject. For it can then be experienced in a number of spatio-temporal propositions in relation to the viewing subject. By literally walking through, its discursive space can be tested along the well-known taxonomy of subject-formation and affirmation.61
It must now be evident that Bill Viola’s ‘The Passing’ could not register as a ‘pure’ video tape in the strictly formalist sense of the word, neither can it be classified as ‘sculptural’. Too many different strands of ‘story-telling’ seem to compete with one-another. There is footage, which shows the sleeper in his bed, there are images of the playing child, landscape shots, underwater scenes, the elderly woman and so on. The film-like editing of these different streams of narrative further dilutes the sensation of ‘real time’, which is so central to video’s perceived locus . Any sensation of video time’s suspension is, without doubt, destroyed in the construction of a distinct narrative, which does feature beginnings and endings. Since here is the artist, who has presumably just gone to bed and is trying to fall a sleep, yet the tape is only 54 minutes in length, unlike Andy Warhol’s film Sleep (1963), which ran for a full 6,5 hours. Hence, what we are experiencing in ‘The Passing’ could only be described as fictional, or compressed time. This emergent fictionality of ‘The Passing’, its constructed and contrived character, seems to be further emphasized by the use of high-tech gadgetry, which dramatizes screen content by injecting more theatricality into the piece as a whole.
And yet, Bill Viola’s ‘The Passing’ does offer some points of reference which places it quite firmly in the context of video-art’s discursivity or, what was described earlier as video’s locus. Without doubt ‘The Passing’ epitomizes a narcissistic attitude, which had been correctly identified by Rosalind Krauss in the mid 1970s as characteristic of video art’s position. For what could be more narcissistic than the opening up of one’s own private family album to a large audience of television viewers, to share in the joys and grief of lived human experience? Bill Viola’s narcissism, however, goes further, since what we are shown not so much represents the anxieties and trauma’s of his family as a whole, but strictly his very own emotions, narrated from the perspective of the dreaming male subject.
It is in the sleeping state that, according to Freud, ‘the primal state of distribution of the libido is restored - total narcissism, in which libido and ego-interest, still united and indistinguishable, dwell in the self-sufficing ego.’62 And thus ‘The Passing’, for its lack of compliance with a strict ‘code’ of, what amounts to, technological determinism, does share in one of video’s most striking features: its narcissistic condition.
The discursive space of video-art must now, at the turn of the millennium, take into account the spectacular economies of new and digital media. ‘Streaming’ video allows the distribution and broadcasting of audio-visual content over the Internet, enabling access to an unprecedented audience at little or no cost. Cheap web-cams, digital video cameras, which are connected to the web, can transmit images non-stop to anyone, who has access to the Internet, an audience that is growing at a phenomenal rate. Commercial search engines already exist, which allow the internet user to locate particular streams of images emanating from one particular web-cam. Tens of thousands of digital video cameras constantly feed into the closed circuit, which is the World Wide Web, producing a continuous flow that is as total as it is ever-present. Like closed circuit television, streaming digital video on the internet ‘collapses the present’, ‘submerges consciousness of temporality and of the separation between subject and object’, leading to a ‘vanquishing of separateness’ (Krauss, 1976), albeit on a much bigger scale, one might add.
In this emerging condition of perpetual suspension, of continuous flow on a global scale, the world is captured in the reflection of its own image. In this never-ending global flow of live footage from thousands of digital web-cams, we, according to some, are faced with a Hegelian totality, in which ‘the real becomes image and the image becomes real, the world becomes a work of art and our condition becomes transparently virtual. In the realized eschatology of the virtual kingdom, nothing lies beyond.’63 In this condition, new ways have to be found, which can shape the flow and its ‘eternal presence’. It is here that Bill Viola’s ‘The Passing’ offers a glimpse of how the flow could be configured. In opting out of the seductive theatre of the media-museum, which again privileges the Cartesian object, ‘The Passing’ provides the model for an interface, a template that not so much structures the flow, but points towards the possibility of structure. Total flow cannot be sustained by the individual for long, since its subject-hood, no matter how fragmented, depends on the relational dialectic of a before and after, a here and there.. The all-engulfing ‘now-ness’ ultimately threatens the subject with its dissolution; total flow implies closure, stasis and paralysis. In the age of digitality, only the partial blocking and the partial flowing can let a signature emerge. The function of the interface is precisely that: the blocking of some information and the passing of other.
‘The Passing’ could then serve as the model for a contemporary practice in which the work is the interface, which channels and frames the various strings and streams of the ‘total flow’. Soon perhaps, we might see more projects in the vain of ‘The Passing’, in which various ‘flows’ are transmitted simultaneously, only held together by an ‘ordering’ interface.
01: Lunenfeld, Peter. (1998). 'Bill Viola' in Art / Text, no.61 (May/July’98): pp. 80-81
02:’[…] video surveillance tapes are regularly used in criminal trials, the most notable being the shopping-center tape of Jamie Bulger being abducted. And the apparatus of surveillance can be used in favor of the oppressed as much as the oppressor, as when in 1991 George Holliday used his new Sony minicam to record LA policemen beating black motorist Rodney King.’ In: Falcon, Richard. (1998). 'V for Video' in Sight & Sound, ns8 (Mar.’98): p. 25
03: One of countless sites on the Internet devoted to images from the 1997 ‘Pathfinder’ mission to Mars can be found at Smith, Peter (1997): ‘There once was a mission to Mars […]’ http://www.sgi-mars.com/ops/fpress-img.html:, (Dec 1999)
04: Mayer, Marc. (1996). Karen Lee Spaulding (ed.) Being & Time: The Emergence of Video Projection, Buffalo, NY: The Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, p. 17
05: For an exhaustive definition of Media Art , see Roger F. Malina on the first prize-giving for interactive media art during Ars Electronica 1990 which can be found in: Hünnekens, Annette. (1997). Der bewegte Betrachter. Theorien interaktiver Medienkunst, Cologne: Wienand Verlag, p. 182
06:Schwarz, Hans-Peter. (1997).'Discourse 1: Media Museums' in Rebecca Picht, Birgit Stöckmann (eds.) Media Art History, New York: Prestel, p. 11
07: The early spirit in 1960s video art is fittingly captured in Nam June Paik’s famous declaration that ‘television has been attacking us all our lives, now we can attack it back.’. Paik’s citation is taken from: Falcon, Richard. (1998). 'V for Video' in Sight & Sound, ns8 (Mar.’98): p. 24
08: For a comprehensive survey of video art histories, see: Sturken, Marita. (1991). 'Paradox in the evolution of an art form: great expectations and the making of a history' in Doug Hall and Sally Jo Fifer (eds.) Illuminating Video: An Essential Guide to Video Art, New York: Aperture, pp. 101 - 121
09: ZKM. (1999). 'Video Cult/ures, exhibition leaflet' in Dr. Ursula Frohne and Dr. Konstanze Thümmel (eds.)Video Cult/ures, exhibition leaflet, Karlsruhe: ZKM, p. 2
10: Ibid., p.2
11: ‘[...] the popularity of corporate media, as seen in the example of MTV, was due in large part to the mass media’s appropriation of avant-garde techniques pioneered by independent video- and filmmakers. While video as media intervention was largely ignored, video installation would find its place in the museum in a grand manner, with such large-scale exhibitions as Nam Jun Paik, Image World, Dislocations and such artists as Viola, Nauman, and Hill gaining widespread recognition.’ In: Hanhardt, John G. and Villasenor, Maria Christina. (1995). Christina Villasenor (ed.) Art Journal, v.54, no. 4 (Winter 1995): p. 24
12: For a chronological overview of Viola’s life and work see: Viola, Bill. (1995). Robert Violette (ed.) Bill Viola: Reasons for Knocking at an Empty House (Writings 1973 - 1994), London: Thames and Hudson, pp. 287 – 291
13: King, Elaine. (1998). 'Bill Viola: Fire, Water, Breath' in Sculpture, v.17 no 6 (July/Aug.’98), Washington D.C: , p. 17
14: Rosalind Krauss used the notion of ‘discursivity’ to analyze the complex cultural systems within which the reading of a photograph or its lithographic reproduction remains suspended. Krauss asks: ‘ And the photograph? Within what discursive space does it operate?’ In: Krauss, Rosalind. (1996) . 'Photography’s Discursive Spaces' in Richard Bolton (ed.) The Contest of Meaning, Cambridge MA / London: MIT - Press, p. 288
15: The notion of difference is, of course central in structural linguistics. Ferdinand de Saussure’s work marked a shift away from language (langue) as a referential naming system towards an understanding of language as a system of differences . According to Saussure ‘in language […] there are only differences.’ In: Saussure, Ferdinand de . (1974)[1907-1911].Wade Baskin (trans.)Course in General Linguistics, Glasgow: Fontana / Collins, p.120. Leading on from Saussure’s work, Jacques Derrida reflects on ‘[…] the moment when language invaded the universal problematic, the moment when, in the absence of a center or origin, everything became discourse […] that is to say, a system in which the central signified, the original or transcendental signified, is never absolutely present outside a system of differences.’ In: Derrida, Jacques. (1978). 'Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of Human Sciences' in Alan Bass (trans.) (ed.) Writing and Difference, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p.280
16: The idea of ‘flow’ as contingent upon a gradient of intensities or identities can be found in the work of Gilles Deleuze. In Anti-Oedipus Deleuze defines ‘flow’ as contingent upon an economy of desires: ‘Desiring machines […]’ are ‘[…] flow-producing machines […]’ and ‘Desire causes the current to flow […]’ in: Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Felix. (1996) .'The Desiring Machines' in Robert Hurley, M. Seem and H.R.Lane (trans.) Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, London: Athlone Press, p. 5
17: Dimitris Eleftheriotis proposes an alternative discourse around video art, one ‘[…]which escapes the intellectual ‘traps’ of technological determinism, symptomatic technology and ideological determinism, and establishes strong conceptual links between technology, aesthetics and politics.’ In: Eleftheriotis, Dimitris. (1995). 'Video Poetics: Technology, Aesthetics and Politics' in Screen, v.36 (Summer ’95), London: , p. 100 Based on Heidegger’s 1954-55 lecture ‘Die Frage nach der Technik ’, technology is seen here as a mode of revealing, as both poetic and scientific. Whilst this argument cannot be properly investigated here, I might add that the model of discursivity, which I propose, can actually accommodate Eleftheriotis’ Poesis.
18: See Sean Cubitt’s exhaustive text on aspects of subjectivity and sociality in Viola’s ‘The Passing’ which I shall refer to subsequently as: Cubitt, Sean. (1995), page-number.
Cubitt, Sean. (1995).'On Interpretation: Bill Viola’s The Passing' in Screen, v.36 (Summer ‘95) , London: , pp. 113-130
19: For a comprehensive list of Viola’s works, see: Gehr, Herbert. (1999). Rolf Lauter (ed.) Bill Viola: Europäische Einsichten / European Insights, Munich: Prestel, p. 360
20: ‘The small television feature’ (my trans.) The ZDF commissions work for this slot on a frequent basis as part of its public broadcast remit. Das Kleine Fernsehspiel can thus be regarded as a niche, within which the dynamics of commercial television are temporarily suspended. Although funding is not tied to achieving particular viewing figures, the production of decidedly artistic material is still relatively rare and usually delegated to the sister station Arte, based in Strasbourg.
21: The locations were: Anza Borrego Desert, California; Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah; Colorado Lagoon, California; Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah; Death Valley National Monument, California; Joshua Tree National Park, California; Rhyolite, Nevada; Salton Sea, California; Tumacacori National Monument, Arizona. In: Gehr, Herbert. (1999). Rolf Lauter (ed.) Bill Viola: Europäische Einsichten / European Insights, Munich: Prestel, p. 215
22: Parallels to the audio-visual narratives of ‘The Passing’ can be found in: ‘The Stopping Mind’ (1991), ‘Heaven and Earth’ (1992), ‘Nantes Triptych’ (1992), ‘The Arc of Ascent’ (1992) and ‘Deserts’ (1994). Recurring images include shots of a man floating under water, a woman (his wife Kira Perov) giving birth, an elderly woman dying (his mother Wynne Lee Viola), children playing (his son’s Andrei and Blake) and the mythic scenery of the American desert landscapes. The fact that all of the above were produced after ‘The Passing’ suggests a certain lineage in his recent oeuvre.
23: I am alluding here, of course, to the 1955 photography exhibition with the same title at the MoMA, New York and curated by Edward Steichen. The Family of Man, that ‘corny exhibition’ (Elliot Erwitt), signified an attempt to reduce the material complexities of human endeavor across a vast gamut of different cultures to the linear narrative of a shared ‘humanity’. For further reference, see: Szarkowski, John. (1989). '7. After the Magazines' in Susan Weiley (ed.) Photography Until Now, New York: The Museum Of Modern Art, p. 254
24: The validity, however, of any autobiographical data should be viewed in strictly critical terms. An investigation of personal circumstances must not foreclose a thorough-going analysis of a given text, yet it can constitute one of many discursive spaces (sic) , within which a work can be seen to operate.
25: Drohojowska-Philip, Hunter; Viola, Bill. (1997). 'The Self-Discovery Channel' in Art News, v.96 (Nov.’97): p. 209
29: Bourdieu, Pierre. (1996) . 'The Cult of Unity and Cultivated Differences' in Shaun Whiteside (trans.) Photography: A Middle-Brow Art, Stanford: Stanford University Press, p. 30
30: Cubitt, Sean. (1995), p. 116
31: In Michel Foucault’s analysis of the regime of discipline and knowledge, surveillance and visibility are necessary to underscore structures of power. In the Panoptikum , according to Foucault, power articulates itself most efficiently for it allows an invisible, small group of people to subject a much larger and visible group to a rule of punishment. The parallels to modern warfare with its smart bombs are striking since the destruction of the enemy is based on the enemy being visible. A visible target can be destroyed whilst the own troops are safe due to their invisibility to the enemy. (Stealth etc.) In: Foucault, Michel. (1977) . Alan Sheridan (trans.) Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, London: Allen Lane,
32: For a useful chronology see: Falcon, Richard. (1998). 'V for Video' in Sight & Sound, ns8 (Mar.’98): p. 26
33: In its impact on the medium at large, the introduction of 8mm video is comparable, perhaps, to the introduction in 1888 of the Kodak Box and its impact on photography.
34: Beech, Dave.(1999).'Video after Diderot' in Art Monthly, no 225 (April 1999): p. 7
35: Mayer, Marc. (1996), p. 27
36: Ibid, p. 30
37: Yet these readings can only be seen as exemplary for the structural economy between the work and its exterior meta-texts. In selecting some and rejecting others, the process of critique completes the work as the site of discourse.
38: Cubitt, Sean. (1995), p.115
39: Bourdieu, Pierre. (1996) , p. 7
40: Benjamin, Walter.(1992) .'The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction ' in Hanna Arendt (ed.) Illuminations, Glasgow: Fontana, p. 237
41: Adorno’s critique was written in response to Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.. In an exchange of letters Adorno rejected Benjamin’s assertion that art was necessarily grounded in ritual by stating that the art-object was ‘inherently dialectical; within itself it juxtaposes the magical and the mark of freedom.’ In: Adorno, Theodor. (1977) . 'Letter to Benjamin (London 18 March 1936)' in Ronald Taylor (ed.) Aesthetics and Politics, London: New Left Books, pp. 121-123
42: Greenberg, Clement. (1986) . 'Towards a newer Laocoon' in John O’Brian (ed.)Clement Greenberg: The Collected Essays and Criticism; Volume One; Perceptions and Judgements, 1939 - 1944, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p. 32
43: Ibid, p. 34
44: Fried, Michael. (1998) . 'Art and Objecthood' in Charles Harrison and Paul Wood (eds.) Art in Theory 1900 - 1990, Oxford: Blackwell, p. 826
45: Ibid, pp. 830 - 831
The debate, which accompanied Art and Objecthood cannot be covered here. For further reference, see Artforum, Summer 1967
46: Jameson, Fredric. (1999). 'Surrealism Without the Unconscious' in Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, London: Verso, p. 96
47: Acconci, Vito. (1993). 'Television, Furniture and Sculpture - The Room With The American View' in Nicola Hodges, Ramona Khambatta and Katherine MacInnes (eds.) Art & Design - World Wide Video, London: Academy Group, p. 27
49: ‘In all developed broadcasting systems the characteristic organization, and therefore the characteristic experience, is one of sequence or flow. This phenomenon, of planned flow, is then perhaps the defining characteristic of broadcasting, simultaneously as a technology and as a cultural form.’ In: Williams, Raymond. (1974).'Programming: Distribution and Flow' inTelevision: Technology and Cultural Form, London: Fontana, p. 86.
50: Cubitt, Sean. (1991). 'Timeshift' in David Morley (ed.)Timeshift - On Video Culture, London: Routledge, p. 35
51: Jameson, Fredric. (1999), pp. 70 – 71
52: Kuspit, Donald and Rapaport, Herman. (1995). 'Television and the Unconscious- Donald Kuspit: An Interview' in Sharon Helmer Poggenpohl, Hans Breder and Herman Rapaport (eds.)The Luminous Object - Video Art / Video Theory, Iowa City: University of Iowa, p. 191
53: Ibid, p. 188
54: Krauss, Rosalind. (1976). 'Video: The Aesthetics of Narcissism' inOctober 1, 1976, Cambridge, MA: MIT - Press, p. 52
55: Ibid, p. 53
56: Ibid, pp. 58-59
57: Ibid, p. 56
58: Freud, Sigmund. (1984) . 'On Narcissism: An Introduction' in Angela Richards and James Strachey (eds.) On Metapsychology: The Theory of Psychoanalysis (The Pelican Freud Library Volume 11 ), London: Penguin, p. 66
59: Ibid, p. 67
60: The artists, whose early video work comes to mind include Vito Acconci, Richard Serra, Nancy Holt, Bruce Nauman, Lynda Benglis, Peter Campus, James Byrne, to name a few.
61: See the exhaustive discussion of subject-formation and art in: Foster, Hal. (1996). 'Whatever Happened to Postmodernism' in Annette Michelson, Rosalind Krauss, Yve-Alain Bois, Benjamin Buchloh, Hal Foster, Dennis Hollier and Sylvia Kolbowski (eds.) The Return of the Real, Cambridge MA / London: MIT - Press, pp. 209-226
62: Freud, Sigmund. (1976) , p. ?
63: Taylor, Mark C. (1999). Mark C. Taylor (ed.) About Religion - Economies of Faith in Virtual Culture, Chicago & London: Chicago University Press, p. 5
Acconci, Vito. 'Television, Furniture and Sculpture - The Room With The American View' in Nicola Hodges, Ramona Khambatta and Katherine MacInnes (eds.) Art & Design - World Wide Video, London: Academy Group, 1993
Adorno, Theodor. 'Letter to Benjamin (London 18 March 1936)' in Ronald Taylor (ed.) Aesthetics and Politics, London: New Left Books, 1977 
Barthes, Roland. Richard Howard(trans.) (ed.)Camera Lucida, London: Vintage Books, 1993 
Baudrillard, Jean. 'The Precession of Simulacra' in Paul Foss, Paul Patton and Philip Beitchman (trans.) (eds.)Simulations, New York: Semiotext(e), 1983
Benjamin, Walter. 'The Author as Producer' in Marcia Tucker, Brian Wallis et al. (eds.) Art After Modernism: Rethinking Representation, Lincoln - Massachusetts: David R. Godine, 1984 
- 'The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction' in Hanna Arendt (ed.) Illuminations, Glasgow: Fontana, 1992 
Bourdieu, Pierre. 'The Cult of Unity and Cultivated Differences' in Shaun Whiteside (trans.) (ed.) Photography: A Middle-Brow Art, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996 
Bürger, Peter. Michael Shaw (trans.) (ed.) Theory of the Avant-Garde, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986 
Cubitt, Sean. David Morley (ed.)Timeshift - On Video Culture, London: Routledge, 1991
- 'Populism and Difficulty: Television and Video Art' in Julia Knight (ed.) Diverse Practices - A Critical Reader on British Video Art, Luton: University of Luton Press, 1996
Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Felix. Robert Hurley, M. Seem and H.R.Lane (trans.) (eds.) Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, London: Athlone Press, 1996 
Deleuze, Gilles. Paul Patton (trans.) (ed.) Difference and Repetition, London: The
Athlone Press, 1994 
Derrida, Jacques. 'Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of Human Sciences' in Alan Bass (trans.) (ed.) Writing and Difference, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978
Feuer, Jane. 'The Concept of Live Television: Ontology as Ideology' in Ann Kaplan (ed.) Regarding Television, Frederick, MD: University Publications of America, 1983
Foster, Hal. 'Whatever Happened to Postmodernism?' in Annette Michelson, Rosalind Krauss, Yve-Alain Bois, Benjamin Buchloh, Hal Foster, Dennis Hollier and Sylvia Kolbowski (eds.)The Return of the Real, Cambridge MA / London: MIT - Press,
Foucault, Michel. Alan Sheridan (ed.) Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, London: Allen Lane, 1977 
Freud, Sigmund. Angela Richards (ed.) The Interpretation of Dreams (Volume 4 The Penguin Freud Library), London: Penguin, 1991 
- 'On Narcissism: An Introduction' in Angela Richards and James Strachey (eds.) On Metapsychology: The Theory of Psychoanalysis (The Pelican Freud Library Volume 11), London: Penguin, 1984 
- 'The Libido Theory and Narcissism' in Angela Richards and James Strachey (eds.) Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis (The Pelican Freud Library Volume 1), London: Penguin, 1976 
Fried, Michael. 'Art and Objecthood' in Charles Harrison and Paul Wood (eds.) Art in Theory 1900 - 1990, Oxford: Blackwell, 1998 
Fry, Roger. 'An Essay in Aesthetics' in Charles Harrison and Paul Wood (eds.) Art in Theory 1900 - 1990, Oxford: Blackwell, 1998 
Gehr, Herbert. 'Film, Art and Videotape' in Rolf Lauter (ed.) Bill Viola: Europäische Einsichten / European Insights, Munich: Prestel, 1999
Greenberg, Clement. 'Towards a newer Laocoon' in John O’Brian (ed.) Clement Greenberg: The Collected Essays and Criticism; Volume One; Perceptions and Judgements, 1939 - 1944, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986 
Habermas, Jürgen. 'The Emergence of the Public Sphere' in Anthony Giddens, David Held, Don Hubert, Steve Loyal, Debbie Seymour and John Thompson (eds.) The Polity Reader in Cultural Theory, Cambridge: Polity Press, 1994 
Hanhardt, John G.. 'Film Image - Electronic Image - The Construction of Abstraction, 1960 - 1990' in Sharon Helmer Poggenpohl, Hans Breder and Herman Rapaport (eds.) The Luminous Object - Video Art / Video Theory, Iowa City: University of Iowa, 1995
Hünnekens, Annette. Der bewegte Betrachter. Theorien interaktiver Medienkunst, Cologne: Wienand Verlag, 1997
Kandinsky, Wassily. 'Concerning the Spiritual in Art' in Charles Harrison and Paul Wood (eds.) Art in Theory 1900 - 1990, Oxford: Blackwell, 1998 
Krauss, Rosalind. 'Photography’s Discursive Spaces' in Richard Bolton (ed.) The Contest of Meaning, Cambridge MA / London: MIT - Press, 1996 
Kuspit, Donald and Rapaport, Herman. 'Television and the Unconscious- Donald Kuspit: An Interview' in Sharon Helmer Poggenpohl, Hans Breder and Herman Rapaport (eds.) The Luminous Object - Video Art / Video Theory, Iowa City: University of Iowa, 1995
Lacan, Jacques. Dennis Porter (trans.)The Seminar. Book VII. The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, London: Routledge, 1992
Lauter, Rolf. 'The Passing' in Rolf Lauter (ed.)Bill Viola: Europäische Einsichten / European Insights, Munich: Prestel, 1999
Lyotard, Jean-Francois. 'What is Postmodernism?' in Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi (trans.) (eds.) The Postmodern Condition, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984 
Mayer, Marc. Karen Lee Spaulding (ed.) Being & Time: The Emergence of Video Projection, Buffalo, NY: The Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, 1996
McLuhan, Marshall. 'The Medium is the Message' inUnderstanding Media, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998 
Saussure, Ferdinand de . Wade Baskin (trans.) Course in General Linguistics, Glasgow: Fontana / Collins, 1974[1907-1911]
Schwarz, Hans-Peter. 'Media-Art-History' in Rebecca Picht and Birgit Stöckmann (eds.) Are Our Eyes Targets ?, Munich: Prestel, 1997
Sturken, Marita. 'Paradox in the evolution of an art form: great expectations and the making of a history' in Doug Hall and Sally Jo Fifer (eds.)Illuminating Video: An Essential Guide to Video Art, New York: Aperture, 1991
Taylor, Mark C. Mark C. Taylor (ed.) About Religion - Economies of Faith in Virtual Culture, Chicago & London: Chicago University Press, 1999
Viola, Bill. Robert Violette (ed.) Bill Viola: Reasons for Knocking at an Empty House (Writings 1973 - 1994), London: Thames and Hudson, 1995
Williams, Raymond. 'Programming: Distribution and Flow' in Television: Technology and Cultural Form, London: Fontana, 1974
II.III Journal Articles:
Archer, Michael. 'Video Lives' in Art Monthly, no. 228 (July / Aug. 1999)
Baker, Kenneth. 'Experience before Intellect' in Art Newspaper, v.8 (Dec.’97)
Beech, Dave. 'Video after Diderot' in Art Monthly, no 225 (April 1999)
Cubitt, Sean. 'On Interpretation: Bill Viola’s The Passing' in Screen, v.36 (Smr‘95)
Darke, Chris. 'Feelings along the Body' in Sight & Sound, v.4 (Jan.’94),
Denk, Andreas. 'Bill Viola - Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, NewMetropolis, Rijksmuseum, World Trade Center, Felix Meritis - 12.09. - 29.11.1998' in Kunstforum International, no. 143 (Jan./Feb.’99)
Drohojowska-Philip, Hunter and Viola, Bill. 'The Self-Discovery Channel' in Art News, v.96 (Nov.’97)
Duncan, Michael. 'Bill Viola: Altered Perceptions' in Art in America, v.86 (Mar.’98)
Durden, Mark. 'Unseen Images. Whitechapel Art Gallery, London; Exhibit' in Creative Camera, no. 327 (April/ May ‘94),
Eleftheriotis, Dimitris. 'Video Poetics: Technology, Aesthetics and Politics' in Screen, v.36 (Summer ’95)
Falcon, Richard. 'V for Video' in Sight & Sound, ns8 (Mar.’98)
Hanhardt, John G. and Villasenor, Maria Christina. 'Video / Media Culture of the Late Twentieth Century' in Christina Villasenor (ed.) Art Journal, v.54, no. 4 (Winter 1995)
Heartney, Eleanor. 'Bill Viola at the Guggenheim SoHo' in Art in America, v.85 (Oct.’97)
Judson, William D. 'Bill Viola - Allegories in Subjective Perception' in Christina Villasenor (ed.) Art Journal, v.54, no. 4 (Winter 1995)
King, Elaine. 'Bill Viola: Fire, Water, Breath' in Sculpture, v.17 no 6 (July/Aug.’98)
Krauss, Rosalind. 'Video: The Aesthetics of Narcissism' in October , 1 - 1976, Cambridge, MA: MIT - Press, 1976
Kuspit, Donald B.'Bill Viola: The Passing' in Artforum, v.32 (Sept. ‘93)
Kuspit, Donald B.'Deep TV: Bill Viola’s Via Negativa.' in Artforum, v.33 (May ‘95)
Lacan, Jacques. 'Television' in October, 40 (Spring 1987), Cambridge, MA: MIT - Press, 1987
Lunenfeld, Peter.'Bill Viola' in Art / Text, no.61 (May/July’98)
Meigh-Andrews, Chris. 'Unseen Images. Whitechapel Art Gallery, London; Exhibit' in Art Monthly, no. 173 (Feb.’94)
Nicastro, Nicholas. 'The Passing' in Film Comment, v.29 (Jan./Feb.’93)
Pollack, Barbara. 'Bill Viola' in Art News, v.97 no4 (Apr.’98)
Rutledge, Virginia; Viola, Bill. 'Art at the End of the Optical Age' in Art in America, v.86 (Mar.’98)
Usherwood, Paul. 'Bill Viola. Durham Cathedral, England; Exhibit' in Art Monthly, no. 201 (Nov.’96)
Zurbrugg, Nicholas. 'Jameson’s Complaint: Video-Art and the Intertextual Timewall' in Screen, v.32 (Spring ‘91)
II.IV Video Tapes:
Viola, Bill. Bill Viola (prod./ dir.)‘The Passing’, 54:00, colour. Amsterdam: éditions à voir, 1991