Clouds Of Meaning

When video becomes art: Houston microcinema's new Rice Village home honors a legend

When video becomes art: A Houston microcinema's new Rice Village home

Pepper Paratore, from left, Michael Landrum, Kira Pirov and Bill Viola at the Bill Viola Aurora Picture Show Award party October 2013
Pepper Paratore, from left, Michael Landrum, Kira Pirov and Bill Viola Photo by © Katy Anderson
Marc Huynh, from left, Duyen Huynh and Thedra Cullar-Ledford at the Bill Viola Aurora Picture Show Award party October 2013
Marc Huynh, from left, Duyen Huynh and Thedra Cullar-Ledford Photo by © Katy Anderson
Bill Viola, from left, Kira Pirov, Mark McCray and Bill Arning at the Bill Viola Aurora Picture Show Award party October 2013
Bill Viola, from left, Kira Pirov, Mark McCray and Bill Arning at the Bill Viola Aurora Picture Show award party. Photo by © Katy Anderson
crowd, venue, dinner at the Bill Viola Aurora Picture Show Award party October 2013
Dinner and a movie at the Bill Viola Aurora Picture Show award party. Photo by © Katy Anderson
Nicole and Joey Romano at the Bill Viola Aurora Picture Show Award party October 2013
Nicole and Joey Romano Photo by © Katy Anderson
Dr. Penelope Marks and Lester Marks at the Bill Viola Aurora Picture Show Award party October 2013
Dr. Penelope Marks and Lester Marks Photo by © Katy Anderson
Bob and Lillian Warren, from left, with Sarah Stauder at the Bill Viola Aurora Picture Show Award party October 2013
Bob and Lillian Warren, from left, with Sarah Stauder Photo by © Katy Anderson
Sorcha Landau and Mike Stauder at the Bill Viola Aurora Picture Show Award party October 2013
Sorcha Landau and Mike Stauder Photo by © Katy Anderson
Betty Moody and Bill Steffy at the Bill Viola Aurora Picture Show Award party October 2013
Betty Moody and Bill Steffy Photo by © Katy Anderson
Allison Ayers, left, and Allison Hunter at the Bill Viola Aurora Picture Show Award party October 2013
Allison Ayers, left, and Allison Hunter Photo by © Katy Anderson
Bill Viola and Kira Pirov at the Bill Viola Aurora Picture Show Award party October 2013
Bill Viola and Kira Pirov Photo by © Katy Anderson
Pepper Paratore, from left, Michael Landrum, Kira Pirov and Bill Viola at the Bill Viola Aurora Picture Show Award party October 2013
Marc Huynh, from left, Duyen Huynh and Thedra Cullar-Ledford at the Bill Viola Aurora Picture Show Award party October 2013
Bill Viola, from left, Kira Pirov, Mark McCray and Bill Arning at the Bill Viola Aurora Picture Show Award party October 2013
crowd, venue, dinner at the Bill Viola Aurora Picture Show Award party October 2013
Nicole and Joey Romano at the Bill Viola Aurora Picture Show Award party October 2013
Dr. Penelope Marks and Lester Marks at the Bill Viola Aurora Picture Show Award party October 2013
Bob and Lillian Warren, from left, with Sarah Stauder at the Bill Viola Aurora Picture Show Award party October 2013
Sorcha Landau and Mike Stauder at the Bill Viola Aurora Picture Show Award party October 2013
Betty Moody and Bill Steffy at the Bill Viola Aurora Picture Show Award party October 2013
Allison Ayers, left, and Allison Hunter at the Bill Viola Aurora Picture Show Award party October 2013
Bill Viola and Kira Pirov at the Bill Viola Aurora Picture Show Award party October 2013

The Aurora Picture Show bestowed its 13th annual eponymous award upon Bill Viola, honoring the legendary video artist during a sold-out dinner event at the microcinema's new digs just north of Rice Village.

Along with wife and collaborator Kira Perov, Viola spent the evening mingling with movers and shakers from all corners of the city's art scene — from celebrated patrons Judy Nyquist and Jereann Chaney to award-winning artist Sharon Engelstein and Contemporary Arts Museum Houston director Bill Arning. 

Aurora curator/artist Mary Magsamen and executive director Sarah Stauder introduced Viola with a 20-minute montage of classic video work, covering his grainy 1970s experiments through truly captivating recent pieces like The Dreamers.

But the highlight of the night came with the artist's acceptance speech, a casual talk that included some awkward tales of his youth (yes, he was a A/V geek) and the story of his last trip to Houston in the 1990s with a very pregnant Perov, who gave birth early to the couple's first son.

Before a special screening of The Raft, a piece commissioned for the 2004 Athens Olympics, Viola discussed the constantly-evolving realm of video technology and the role of the artist within it.

"I grew up at the same time television was developing . . . and it's grown up with me," he said. "But nothing you see on TV and in the movies can compare to what artists do with this medium."

He described the creative act of sifting through the "clouds of meaning" embedded within decades of commercial television and film production, which he said has the uncanny ability to create a "larger picture of who we are."

Viola closed with a series of quotes on art, the most poignant of which came from Norwegian painter Edvard Munch: “The camera will never compete with the brush and palette until you can take it into Heaven or Hell.”

Watch the full speech below:

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