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Video artist Bill Viola to receive McDermott award

Bill Viola
Bill Viola
Photo: Kira Perov

Internationally renowned video artist Bill Viola has been selected by MIT's Council for the Arts as the recipient of the Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts, which recognizes the highest standard of creative achievement on a national level.

Viola, who has been instrumental in establishing video as a vital medium of contemporary art, will receive $75,000 and spend a week in March at MIT working with students to help enhance the creative life of the MIT community.

Viola uses video to explore the human phenomena of sense perception as a path that leads to self-knowledge. His work focuses on universal human experiences -- birth, death, the unfolding of consciousness -- and has roots in both Eastern and Western art.

Viola has exhibited at the world's most prestigious museums and institutions, including at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Guggenheim Museum, New York; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, which in 1997 organized an exhibition entitled "Bill Viola: A 25-Year Survey."

"The week-long residency component of the Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts provides a rare opportunity for our students," said MIT Associate Provost and Ford International Professor of History Philip S. Khoury. "Thanks to the generosity of Margaret McDermott, MIT undergraduate and graduate students will have the chance to meet Mr. Viola in an intimate setting, not only to learn about his innovative and pioneering work, but to share their creative work and research with him."

The Eugene McDermott Award recognizes an individual for his or her innovation and contribution to the arts while reinforcing MIT's commitment to risk taking, problem solving and connecting creative minds across disciplines. Past recipients include playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, architect Santiago Calatrava, artist Isaac Julian, architect I.M. Pei '40 and author Junot Díaz, now a professor in MIT's Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies.

Viola will begin his residency on March 9. He will be presented with the award and present his work at 6:30 p.m. on March 10 in Room 10-250. MIT students and faculty will be given seating priority.

On the web:

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 4, 2009 (download PDF).

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