Bill Viola: Reasons for Knocking at an Empty House: Writings 1973-1994

Reasons for Knocking at an Empty House is a powerfully austere observation of the perceptual experience of the self in isolation, subjected to extended duration. Viola writes that this work is "an attempt to stay awake continuously for three days while confined to an upstairs room in an empty house. Recordings were made from a stationary black-and-white camera to chronicle the effects of the relentless passage of time on a solitary individual. The space becomes increasingly subjective as events slide in and out of conscious awareness and the duration becomes more and more brutal." Subtle transformations in light and sound, and the use of a wide-angle lens to create spatial ambiguities, further distort the viewer's perception of time and space, illusion and reality.

Chosen to represent the United States at the 46th Venice Biennale, Bill Viola, a New York artist living on the West Coast, is recognized internationally for his work in video and sound installations. This book brings together a selection of essays, notebook entries, drawings, and descriptions of projects that map Viola's personal course through the readings, observations, experiments, and associations that form the groundwork for his art. Each work illustrated is accompanied by a description by the artist, as well as comments on the work's origins from the artist's notebooks.For the last 25 years, Viola has used innovative multimedia technologies to explore the phenomena of sense perception as a language of the body and avenue to self-knowledge, integrating many disciplines and philosophies to reveal contemporary art's relevance to the modern world. His views have deep roots in mysticism, poetry, philosophy, Eastern art, shamanism, Chinese Taoism, Sufism, and Zen Buddhism. Viola's chief concerns today are to draw attention to the upset ecological balance of nature by focusing on the connection between our inner and outer lives, on the conception of the self as part of the whole.

"The larger struggle we are witnessing today... [is] an ecological drama where the outcome rests not only on our realization that the natural physical environment is one and the same as our bodies, but that nature itself is a form of Mind." Bill Viola