Who was Pipilotti Rist and why was she important? – ARTnews.com
During her first year of art school, Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist produced a work that would soon become a classic example of feminist video art. Title I’m not the girl who misses a lot (1986), the seven-minute glitch work – her very first video – is washed in pink, then blue, and it shows Rist dancing frantically, her breasts falling out of her dress. She sings the title line over and over again, her vocals quite shrill, in a riff to lyrics from the 1968 Beatles song “Happiness Is a Warm Gun”. After Rist showed the work in a few museums in the German-speaking world, three New York galleries contacted and she quickly signed with Luhring Augustine – a big deal for a then-unknown video artist, as works made in the medium are so hard to sell. (Since then she has also gotten representation with the Hauser & Wirth mega-gallery.) It was the first of many hits.
Since then, the popularity of the Zurich artist has grown steadily. Because her first major work looked like a music video and because she was part of the Swiss pop group Les Reines Prochaines, some art historians have said that she was influenced by MTV. But the artist denies watching the channel in the 1980s. The reverse, however, is certainly true: Rist’s influence on music videos is very important today. The one from BeyoncÃ©’s 2016 song “Hold Up” shows the singer jumping across a sidewalk in a flowing yellow dress, smashing car windows on the way with a baseball bat. Some Beyhive members immediately recognized it as a tribute to Rist’s video. Never is over (1997), in which the artist damages parked cars with an oversized fake flower under the approving gaze of a police officer. The same year that BeyoncÃ©’s song was released, Rist hosted a retrospective at the New Museum in New York City that broke institutional attendance records, and her play Open my clearing (Flatten), 2000, was screened on a series of jumbotrons in Times Square. He shows the artist looking silly with his face leaning against the glass.
Rist is exceptionally popular for a video artist. (Three decades of artwork is slated to be shown in an exhibition that opens this Sunday at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.) For this reason, some critics are skeptical. “I couldn’t forgive her videos for inadvertently exposing the female body as an object of sexual desire, once again,” wrote review Jane Cavalier in 2016. Can Rist really have earned the â€œfeministâ€ label that she often wears? In other words, can it really challenge the status quo while enjoying general public acceptance?
During the 1970s and 1980s, many videographers devoted their practice to issuing warnings against the spectacular qualities of the moving image. The famous one by Dara Birnbaum Technology / Transformation: Wonder Woman (1978-1979), for example, relied on appropriate footage from the “Wonder Woman” series to highlight disturbing female stereotypes that television often helps normalize. It shows how the television is begging to be ingested without criticism. In contrast, Rist revelers in the potential for awe and awe of his midrange by using bright colors and calming soundtracks. And why shouldn’t she? Video as a medium has often relied on women’s bodies to seduce the viewer, and Rist is here to change the terms. In other words, she slips her subversive messages about feminist pleasure under your nose.
In 1992, for example, Rist attempted to do feminist porn work. At the time, there was an intense debate over whether pornography was inherently misogynistic. Vexed at the idea that dogma could dictate pleasure, Rist turned the speech into a prompt. In the resulting single channel Pickelporno (1992), a tiny camera travels the surfaces of two bodies. “My theory with [Pickelporno] was that women – and I’m not even sure you can really generalize this broadly – may be more interested in knowing what the other feels and thinks than seeing the action as a third person from the outside “She said in an interview included in her 2016 New Museum exhibition catalog.” When you look at sex from the outside, it’s always a lot less interesting than when you’re involved in it. so wanted to make a porn movie from the inside out.
Entering the corpses has been of concern to Rist ever since, though his strategies for doing so continue to evolve. In his 1996 single chain Mutaflor, she seems to swallow a tiny camera and then kick it out of her anus – a trick she pulls off by blacking out close-ups of her orifices. The same year, she created Sip my ocean, her first immersive screening, the medium for which she will become the best known. The rectangular screen had started to feel confined, and she wanted to break free. The images, filmed largely underwater, are shown on two walls in one corner, with one channel reflecting the other to create a kaleidoscopic effect. In this and other alluring video, she visually engulfs her viewers and cradles them with hypnotic soundtracks. She believes that “music and dance are, in a way, reflections of the inner body” and that “we try to show our inner selves on the outside and merge together”.
Periodically, these alluring and beguiling works have sparked controversy. Consider the case of Homo Sapiens Sapiens, which was installed in the San Stae church in Venice for the 2005 Biennale. The video, which drew huge crowds, shows a heavenly world in which everyone is naked. Sometimes the imagery is sexually explicit, although the most memorable scenes feature ripe peaches squeezed by hand until they burst or couples appear to be floating in space. All of this is superimposed on lush dreamy landscapes and starry skies. When church priest Father Aldo Marangoni announced the exhibition’s early closure, he referred to technological issues, though many viewed his explanation with skepticism, as it followed a petition against nudity in the churches that had made its way up to the Pope himself.
Three years later, when Rist installed his immersive projection Empty your body in the expansive second-floor atrium of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, a very different sort of protest ensued. Critic Jerry Saltz observed that during the show, â€œThe mothers set up play dates in the atrium, letting the kids run around as they gathered on the large round sofa. Visitors bring computers and work here, or listen to iPods, or chat, sleepy, or read. Actress Alexandra Auder has started giving yoga classes inside the facility to keep viewers from being completely lulled into submission. She seems to have almost forgotten that Empty your body includes images of a woman collecting her menstrual blood in a silver chalice. How radical that such images become the backdrop for family affairs.
Rist’s work has long been pursued by accusations that he makes viewers passive. As if to outsmart opponents, his 2016 installation 4th Floor at Mildness Family Sweetness has ten beds under a video projected on the ceiling. The only way to watch the video is to lie down and look up. It was the logical extension of Tu mich nicht nochmals verlassen (Do Not Abandon Me Again), 2015, in which colorful images of a starry night are projected onto a welcoming bed.
Given the recurring sexual imagery in Rist’s work, one would be forgiven for considering these beds as a reference to intimacies of all kinds. This quasi-erotic content gets the most attention, but she also intends to separate shame from all sorts of everyday bodily functions. She encourages naps in public, and periods appear regularly in her work. In Blutclip (1993), a single-channel video shows fuchsia-colored menstrual blood dripping delicately over the artist’s body as an animated soundtrack plays.
When Rist first started, she almost always pointed the camera at herself, following a feminist tradition started by Frederike Pezold, Joan Jonas, Dara Birnbaum, and Ulrike Rosenbach, all of whom used video to become both designer and muse. But Rist’s more recent works often involve a cast of actresses and a crew. These pieces are less glitchy, and often even more magnificent. (Video technology has improved since the ’90s, and that has helped Rist refine her aesthetic.) She even directed a feature film, pepper mint (2009). It tells the story of a young girl who offers a kind of alchemical healing in the form of color. Shot entirely from a low angle, as if being filmed by a child, the work conveys an implicit feminist affirmation: women are often rejected as young girls in order to justify their exclusion from positions of power. Color, too, has always been considered “feminine”, not very serious, unpleasant or superficial in artistic circles. With his vibrant videos, Rist claims a resolutely feminine aesthetic.
Her use of projection has also been described as feminine by architectural historian Sylvia Lavin in her 2011 book Kissing architecture. Lavin writes that Rist’s projections gently brush against rigid buildings in a feminine, flirtatious way. But more recently, the artist has also created permanent public art works outdoors, another rare move for a video artist. In collaboration with architect Carlos Martinez, she transformed a square in the Swiss town of St. Gallen into a living room with benches and fountains emerging from a poppy red street. Das Loft, a bar in Vienna, has a ceiling-sized screen showing a of his videos.
Rist has slowed down a bit in recent years after contracting hepatitis C. But she continues to push boundaries of all kinds – the limitations of the rectangular screen, moralistic dogmas or even the vivid anti-color bias that some researchers are calling. “Chromophobia”. Criticize her as much as you want. Just expect her to take any objection as a challenge.