Bill Viola: The Raft

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The Raft suggests art historical references, including Théodore Géricault’s iconic Romantic painting, The Raft of the Medusa (1818-19), an over-life-sized depiction of a group of people struggling to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)



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
June 6 – August 16, 2020


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 presented as part of the AFA’s ArtRoom series.

From the crisscrossing strings of Marcel Duchamp’s his twine (1942), to the mirrored, polka-dotted chambers created by Yayoi Kusama, installation art has made a significant impact both on art history and on a wide range of audiences. ArtRoom offers a series of installations by contemporary artists, highlights the work of diverse international artists, and provides audiences with immersive and perspective-shifting experiences.

ArtRoom is a resource for cultural institutions seeking to bring a spectrum of installation art to their audiences. Venues may choose to show one or more of the installations. 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 collection and the venue; providing detailed installation plans and necessary equipment; and providing guidance for production and installation.

Other works in the series:

Mona Hatoum: Misbah