Bill Viola: The Raft (2019-2020)

Bill Viola’s installation The Raft arouses a visceral experience of human calamity and shared humanity.

The Raft depicts at life-sized scale a group of ordinary people casually standing together. Suddenly, they are struck by strong blasts of water that rush in, overtake them, and then, just as unexpectedly, recede. In the aftermath of the deluge, the victims huddle together, seek protection, and help those who have fallen. The viewer experiences this event in an immersive setting, standing in a darkened room and surrounded by the roaring sounds of the water. Meticulously captured in slow-motion, The Raft arouses a visceral experience of human calamity and shared humanity, provoking a consideration of the range of responses to crisis.

The Raft suggests art historical references, including Théodore Géricault’s iconic Romantic painting, The Raft of the Medusa (1818-19), an over-life-sized depiction of a group of people struggling to survive a ship wreck on a makeshift raft. Additionally, the ensemble’s arrangement across the video screen and labored movements are reminiscent of Classical Greco-Roman friezes.

Bill Viola has said that in this world of unstable and often unseen powers, an attack can come at any time for seemingly no reason. For him, it is important that everyone in The Raft survives, a statement of the resilience of humanity.

Bill Viola, “The Raft” (Excerpt)



*Museums hosting the exhibition may be impacted due to efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19. Please check the institution’s website for the most up-to-date information. Thank you to our supporters, funders, lenders, and audience for continued patience and understanding.
Limited availability 2020–2021
Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, NH
June 8 – September 8, 2019
New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, CT
October 10, 2019 – January 5, 2020
Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA
February 16 – May 10, 2020
Chazen Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI
September 29 – December 30, 2020


Presentation period: 12 weeks

Space and materials required (provided by each venue):

  • Room, gallery, or constructed space measuring approx. 29 ft. (L) x 23 ft. (W) x 13 ft. (H)

Provided by the AFA:

  • Detailed installation plans
  • Guidance for production and installation


For booking information, contact Andrew Eschelbacher, Director of Curatorial Affairs,, 212.988.7700, ext. 262.


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.

About ArtRoom

The Raft is part of ArtRoom, an ongoing series of modern and contemporary art installations organized by the AFA.

ArtRoom makes immersive and experiential art available to a wide range of museums and audiences, while highlighting the work of diverse international artists. It is a resource for cultural institutions seeking to bring a spectrum of installation art to their audiences. The pieces in the series are meant to be experienced individually, rather than as a group exhibition. The AFA will facilitate the realization of each installation in order to ensure its success at each unique venue: liaising with the artist and/or originating collection and the venue; providing a detailed installation plan and equipment (as necessary); and providing guidance for production and installation.

Other works in the series:

Mona Hatoum: Misbah

Yoko Ono: Mend Piece