The Passing

1991, 54:22 min, b&w, sound, HD video

The Passing hauntingly travels the terrains of the conscious, the subconscious, and the desert landscapes of the Southwest, melding sleep, dreams and the drama of waking life into a stunning masterpiece. Viola, placed at the center of this personal exploration of altered time and space, represents his mortality in such forms as a glistening newborn baby, his deceased mother, and the artist himself, floating, submerged under water. Starkly yet poignantly rendered in black and white, The Passing re-enforces the notion of a permeable conduit between reality and surreality. An irrepressible soundtrack of Viola's labored breathing in sleeping and wakefulness serves to pull the viewer through an otherworldly topography. Amy Taubin of the Village Voice hails The Passing as "awesomely beautiful" and deems Bill Viola "a world-class video artist." She writes, "Some of the images... burst out of the darkness, shimmer and fade as radiant and ephemeral as shooting stars."

Production Managers: Donna Matorin, Kira Perov. Production Assistants: Donna Matorin, Robert Campbell. Engineering: Thomas Piglin. Funding: National Endowment for the Arts and ZDF Das Kleine Fernsehspiel.


This work has been remastered to HD video by Bill Viola. The HD video is 16:9 aspect ratio, with black pillar bars on either side of the 4:3 image. This must be shown using a 16:9, HD display.

High-Definition Video Guide

SCREENING REQUIREMENTS for museum or gallery presentation: The video should be presented as cinema. The screening should take place in an isolated dark room with seating for the audience (ie. not be an open "walk through" gallery.) If available, a normal museum theater is best. As with film, it should be shown according to a printed schedule and not on an automatically repeating loop. Quality presentations less frequently to larger groups are preferable to continuous screenings throughout the day. A large screen monitor may be used (26, 30, or 35 inch) for groups up to about 60 (varies with floor plan and seating arrangement). For very large groups or in a large space, a video projector with a flat screen (high gain) may be used. Audio must be monitored through a separate stereo sound system (amplifier and 2 speakers). The built-in speakers in the video monitor must not be used. Please contact EAI distribution ( if you have any questions.