Image: Bill Viola, The Raft, May 2004, Video/sound Installation, Color high-definition video projection on wall in a darkened space; 5.1 channels of surround sound, Projected image size 156 x 88 in. (396.2 x 223 cm), Duration: 10:33 minutes, Courtesy Bill Viola Studio, James Cohan Gallery, New York and American Federation of Arts, Photo: Kira Perov.

(SACRAMENTO, CA — UPDATED February 17, 2020) The Crocker Art Museum is pleased to announce the opening of "Bill Viola: The Raft". The large and powerfully affecting audio/video installation was created as a commission for the 2004 Olympic games in Athens, and this presentation is part of a new national tour.

Organized by the American Federation of Arts (AFA) and Bill Viola Studio, "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 the events in the work in an immersive setting, standing in a darkened room and surrounded by the roaring sounds of the water. The scene is meticulously captured in slow-motion and arouses a visceral experience of calamity and shared humanity, provoking a consideration of the range of responses to crisis.

"I first saw this work a few years ago when it was shown at documenta 14, a major exhibition of contemporary art held every five years in Germany. The experience was powerful and I’m delighted to present the work at the Crocker so our visitors can be moved by the piece as I was," said the Museum's Director and CEO, Lial A. Jones.

"The Raft" suggests art historical references, including Théodore Géricault’s iconic, early 19th-century Romantic painting "The Raft of the Medusa," a larger-than-life depiction of a group of people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.

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 (b. 1951, Queens, NY) 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.

The installation will be on view at the Crocker Art Museum from February 16 through May 10, 2020.

"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 presentation is made possible, in part, by funds from the A.R. Brooks Trust.

“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.”

High-resolution images are available to members of the media upon request.

Karen Christian
Media Relations Associate, Crocker Art Museum
(916) 808-1867

Shawna Gallancy
American Federation of Arts
(212) 988-7700 x205

Through engaging, innovative, and life-changing interactions with art, the Crocker Art Museum provides meaningful opportunities for people of divergent backgrounds to find common ground. Founded as a public/private partnership in 1885, the Crocker features the world’s foremost display of California art and is renowned for its holdings of master drawings and international ceramics, as well as European, Asian, African, and Oceanic art. The Crocker serves as the primary regional resource for the study and appreciation of fine art and offers a diverse spectrum of exhibitions, events, and programs to deepen visitor’s understanding of art, including films, concerts, studio classes, lectures, and an array of activities for families and children. More information about exhibits and programs can be found at

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.