Pipilotti Rist is a Swiss born artist who is inspired by women and the bodies of women. Many of her works are in the mediums of film, site-specific installation, and audio installation. It is not until the last fifteen years that she has moved on from one medium to create ‘large-scale immersive environments that are able to merge image, sound and scenario-specific props’ (National Gallery of Australia). One of her main beliefs is that ever artist has an agenda and that hers is the agenda of hope.
Many believe that Rist is a political artist, however she comments the politically she is a feminist, however personally she is not. ‘The image of a woman in my art does not stand just for women: she stands for all humans. I hope a young guy can take just as much from my art as any woman’ – The Guardian. Frieze online also mentions that Rist believes the female body is not a temple, but rather a source on an embattled autonomy and self-love. Her artwork aims to look at the difference between the male and the female experience and how something that supports one might be uncomfortable for the other. Another aim of her artwork is to investigate the relationship between image and text, anarchy and order, and eroticism and technique.
“Film represents both the way the eye works and our subconscious. I love the idea that we can be watching television for two hours, and be aware only of the images we are seeing – not the glass and plastic that is projecting them.”- The Guardian
Her website, which can be viewed here is very non-descript. When you click onto the link, you are met with a slideshow of bright, garishly coloured photographs from film stills. At the bottom, there are multiple ways to contact her and her galleries, but the website offers no other information. All of the necessary information about her can be found through these links or through other pages, like this one. The lack of description about her art on her own website allows the viewer of her artwork to almost choose themselves to determine what it is about, and what the dream world that perhaps is being shown to them is portraying.
Art’s task is to contribute to evolution, to encourage the mind, to guarantee a detached view of social changes, to conjure up positive energies, to create sensuousness, to reconcile reason and instinct, to research possibilities and to destroy clichés and prejudices. – Frieze
It has been said that Pipilotti Rist does not want to record or respond to reality, but rather make work about the unconscious thoughts and dreams of the world she lives in. This makes her works strangely familiar, but also as though we are peering into her own thoughts and dreams. To accompany this, many of her film and audio installations contain large beanbags, cushions, sofas and even beds to relax and recline on. These are also there in order for you to give yourself over to the moment of ‘now’ (National Gallery of Australia). The way in which these are positioned, as well as the direction of the projection of her work, are from her interest of bodies and the space in which they occupy. In the installation space, she is interested in how people move around it and respond to the works, and so with different ‘relaxing’ materials, she is able to manipulate this. Rist has also commented that she wants us to look at the world close up and become immersed in the landscape and to gain a sense of happiness and fun from her works.
Frieze also comments on the way Rists’ ideas come across; “they are meant to act like drug-related experiences in which one breaks free from the prison of language on a high and finds temporary release in images.” This is often reflected in the way the spectator is meant to live through the event of her installations in a physical way.
One of her more well-known exhibitons is aptly named Eyeball Massage, at the Hayward Gallery, London, where 300 pairs of white pants were illuminated by Hip Lights along the South bank of the river Thames. From a distance these have been known to look like whipped cream, or sheep’s heads with the legs of the pant forming their eyes. Rist hopes that this will not only make people smile but also think about the relationship that we, as humans, have, with this important, sexually charged area in the middle of our bodies. “We all come out from between our mother’s legs. From there that we first see the light of the world (The Guardian).”
Her single most famous video installation Ever is Over All was made in 1997, and contains Pipilotti Rist in a light blue, flowing dress, smashing car windows with a flower cast in metal, shown next to the same red flowers in a field of lush vegetation. The police woman in the video salutes and seems almost unaware of the destruction to the cars that is happening. It is a little well-known fact that these are her friends cars lined up with their passenger-side window being offered to be hit, as this was the cheapest window to replace. This is also the visual representation of the Pipilotti Rist artistic universe where transgression doesn’t exist, or is suspended, the law of the land is feminine and it is entirely non-judgemental (ArtNet). Many believe this is where pop star Beyonce got her inspiration from in her Hold Up music video – the glam rampage is about righteous destruction and background viewers have expressions of shock and delight.
“The most amusing comment I heard during the Biennale was, ‘I came all the way to Venice to see a video?’ But the video was Pipilotti Rist and if you have to go to Venice to see it, so be it. The 35 year-old Swiss luminary projected her master stroke across the corner of a room. On one half of a split screen, a long-stemmed flower in a field swayed back and forth. The phallic nature of the flower was emphasised by the demeanour of the young woman who, on the other side of the screen, carried it playfully, beaming as she skipped down a typical city street to an ethereal nonsense ditty sung with a breathy, devil-may-care attitude. The films initial appearance was that of a fabric softener commercial, but a minute or so in, the woman swung the flower and shattered the window of every car she passed. The male passers-by looked askance and tried to keep out of her way. The female passers-by smiled wistfully, a lady police officer even beaming approvingly. The nonsensical atmosphere of the work denies a straightforward feminist reading. What is more the point here is the role of privacy, the flouting of manners and our difficult relationship with the city. If Rist can explain all of this in a short video, mega-shows such as Venice seem worth the effort.” – Frieze
Above: Photos from several of Rists’ books including: Apricots along the streets, Remake of the weekend, and I’m not the girl who misses much. In each of these, Rist uses stills from her films, and large, bold text to highlight small ideas and sentences on several pages. In Screen/Space: the projected image in contemporary art, it compares the work of Pipilotti Rist and Carolee Schneeman (this is a chapter I suggest reading).
It has been found that even the smallest thing inspires Pipilotti Rist and the artwork that she creates. It is everything from everyday life to the body and the idea of fun especially as she is inspired by play, dreams and the female sexuality. Yoko Ono and Naum June Paik, other video artists, have inspired Rist through their attitude towards anti-elitist art. This is also the same from her inspiration from the Fluxus movement. “This type of art involves the viewer in the work in an attempt to break down the boundaries between art and everyday life (Teachers Notes).” The use of the up-close camera on a human body allows her to literally play with all these inspirations and for her to create the skin as another landscape that we can view.
Her previous works through producing cartoons and stage design for music groups inspired the ‘clip’ aesthetic of her videos and films that she has produced throughout her artistic career. Not only has it inspired the clip element, but also the staging, edit sequences and the psychedelic palette of colour and graphics that she uses throughout her works (Frieze).
Pipilotti Rists’ full biography can be found here, along with her bibliography here. The home of her artworks can be found at the Hauser and Wirth Gallery.