Bill Viola – He Weeps for You 1977

A drop of water emerging from a small brass valve is magnified by a video camera and projected on a large screen. The close-up image reveals that the viewer and part of the room where they stand are visible inside each forming drop. The drop swells and shudders as it reaches surface tension, finally falling and creating a loud resonant sound as it lands on an amplified drum below. A new drop immediately begins forming and the cycle continues in infinite repetition.


The physical principle behind He Weeps for You is that each drop of water acts as a lens. Viola demonstrates during installation of the piece at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1979.

Photograph by Bill Viola

Installation of the work at The Kitchen, New York, 1977. This is an early configuration of the piece and its components would evolve over time.

He Weeps for You notebook page including Shabistari quote, December 1, 1976
ink on paper

The correspondence between microcosm and macrocosm expressed in the Islamic mystical tradition of Sufism was an inspiration to Viola for this piece. In 1976, working though these ideas, the artist also noted the following quote by the Persian poet Jallaludin Rumi (1207–1273):

With every moment a world is born and dies,
And know that for you, with every moment come death
and renewal.

Courtesy the artist

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