Bill Viola: The Raft Embarks on National Tour

(New York, NY, April 1, 2019) The American Federation of Arts (AFA) is pleased to announce the national tour of Bill Viola: The Raft. The Raft (May 2004) is a defining achievement in video installation that exemplifies Bill Viola’s powerfully affecting work. Originally created as a commission for the 2004 Olympics in Athens, this is the first time The Raft will tour the United States. The national tour is organized by the American Federation of Arts and Bill Viola Studio. The presenting institutions are the 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); and Chazen Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin-Madison (June 6 – August 16, 2020).

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The Raft suggests art historical references, including Théodore Géricault’s iconic Romantic painting, The Raft of the Medusa (1818-19), an over-life-sized depiction of a group of people struggling to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

“It has been a special privilege to collaborate with Bill Viola Studio to bring this powerful installation to new audiences across the country,” said Pauline Willis, AFA Director and CEO. “The AFA is thrilled to continue its commitment to working closely with living artists.”

Bill Viola (b. 1951, Queens, N.Y.) is a major figure in the development of video and installation art. For over four decades, Viola has created video work, architectural video installations, sound environments, electronic music performances, and works for television broadcast. He explores universal human experiences and is inspired by diverse spiritual traditions, including Christian mysticism, Islamic Sufism, and Zen Buddhism. Among his numerous accolades, he has received a Getty Research Institute Fellowship, an honorary doctorate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. Viola has exhibited widely, with solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Grand Palais, Paris, and has represented the United States at the Venice Biennale.

Bill Viola: The Raft is presented as part of AFA’s ArtRoom, an ongoing series of contemporary art installations that highlights the work of diverse international artists and provides audiences with immersive and perspective-shifting experiences. This groundbreaking series increases access to installation art for cultural institutions and their audiences.

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.

The American Federation of Arts is the leader in traveling exhibitions internationally. A nonprofit organization founded in 1909, the AFA is dedicated to enriching the public’s experience and understanding of the visual arts through organizing and touring art exhibitions for presentation in museums around the world, publishing exhibition catalogues featuring important scholarly research, and developing educational programs.

Media Inquiries: Shawna Gallancy 212.988.7700 x 205


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