Bill Viola

Flushing, New York United States 1951, lives and works in Los Angeles

The Greeting
1995
video and sound installation
screen 282 x 241,3 cm, ed. 5/5
1995.BV.01

The Greeting lasts ten minutes but shows an encounter which actually lasted only forty-five seconds in. Due to the extreme slow motion, the ordinary character of the event suddenly becomes unusual and fraught with meaning. The conversation of two women is interrupted when a young woman in a bright orange dress approaches, and embraces the older of the two. The woman in the center, who is almost kept out of this for a moment, is the key figure around whom Viola builds the image of the communication.
The slow motion causes every gesture and every emotion to be revealed in minute detail: from the gaping mouth of the older woman to the hesitation and 'excluded' position of the onlooking woman.  Inspiration for The Greeting was taken from a sixteenth-century painting by Jacopo da Pontormo.
Its theme, the visitation, i.e. the moment at which Mary tells Elizabeth that she is expecting a child, was painted in a very poignant manner – as though the suffering of Christ could already be read in the glances being exchanged by the two women.