Bill Viola, 'Inverted Birth' (detail), 2014. Photo: Kira Perov. Courtesy Bill Viola Studio. Private collection.

Bill Viola

Inverted Birth


– 26.11.17

US artist Bill Viola is a pioneering figure in the field of video art, and has been instrumental in the establishment of video as a vital form of contemporary art. With a career spanning forty years, Viola has become famous for his iconic and captivating slow-motion video works. Since the early days of video art in the late 1960s with artists like Nam June Paik, Andy Warhol and Bruce Nauman, Bill Viola has expanded this medium from its state of registration into a new space of human feelings. In developing his own techniques, he has forged a new path in art history and added a distinctive aesthetic sensuousness and rarefied quality to his style of expression. His works focus on universal human experiences, having roots in Eastern and Western art as well as spiritual traditions, including Zen Buddhism, Islamic Sufism and Christian mysticism.

For Bill Viola the camera constitutes a kind of prism. He uses it to address the great questions of life: Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going? By extending time, repeating it or slowing it down, Viola’s works give us the opportunity to be present in an expanded or enhanced ‘now’. Viola’s installations depict human beings under extreme pressure, ascending and descending, in water and fire, in motion and at rest. His images are strikingly beautiful, creating a direct emotional appeal to the heart of the viewer.


Inverted Birth

Bill Viola’s large scale installation Inverted Birth (2014), which was on show at Papirøen in 2017, is a prime example of how his technically innovative installations have transcended the video genre. Towering to a monumental height of five meters, Inverted Birthexplores the power of human emotions and the very nature of our existence; life, death, birth and rebirth. Viola was inspired by Zhuang Zhou, a fourth century BC Chinese philosopher who wrote: “Birth is not a beginning, death is not an end”.

Viola writes about Inverted Birth, that it “depicts five stages of awakening through a series of violent transformations. The fluids represent the essence of human life: earth, blood, milk, water, and air, and the life cycle from birth to death, here inverted into a transformation from darkness to light.”


The exhibition was supported by

Augustinus Fonden

About Bill Viola

Bill Viola was born in New York in 1951 and graduated from Syracuse University in 1973. He has been creating installations, films, sound environments, flat panel video pieces and works for concerts, opera and sacred spaces for over four decades. Viola represented the US at the Venice Biennale in 1995. International solo exhibitions include Palazzo Strozzi (2017); Deichtorhallen (2017); Guggenheim Bilbao (2017); Grand Palais (2014); Palazzo delle Esposizioni (2008); Mori Art Museum (2006); ARoS (2005); J. Paul Getty Museum (2003) and The Whitney Museum of American Art (1997).

This exhibition was made in collaboration with Kira Perov (Executive Director of Bill Viola Studio). 

Bill Viola, Inverted Birth (detail), 2014. Installation view, Copenhagen Contemporary 2017. Photo: Anders Sune Berg

Bill Viola, Inverted Birth (detail), 2014. Installation view, Copenhagen Contemporary 2017. Photo: Anders Sune Berg