Enter the problematic world of Pipilotti Rist

A disembodied voice sings with Swiss delight. After a few seconds of staring at the Zoom void, a dazzling array of colors explode onto the screen as Pipilotti Rist comes into virtual form from her studio in Zurich. Much like immersive video installations, the Swiss artist seems unable to be confined to pixels: her spirited personality is amplified by the spotted apron she wears. A colorful crochet blanket draped over an orange chair next to it completes the rich multicolored picture.

Speaking in late August 2022, Rist has just returned from a six-week stay in Hong Kong to nail her lead solo show, “Behind Your Eyelid,” at Tae Kwon, a former police outpost turned downtown cultural destination. region. Its robust installations extend beyond the confines of the Herzog & de Meuron-designed galleries, covering the complex’s courtyards and appearing on unexpected surfaces, like the window with rails. “My work is about freeing the electronic image from its box and inserting it into the physical world,” says Rest. Sponsored by Tobias Berger, Head of Arts at Tai Kwun, the survey extends Rist’s three-decade practice, from previous single-channel videos like sip my ocean (1996) and Ever above all (1997) for site-specific installations. There is a repetition of pixel forest: An interlocking array of LEDs, each as distinct as crystals (or “frozen labia,” as the artist notes in the catalog). in another place, Omvendt øjenlåg (reverse eyelid) (2022), originally created in collaboration with Danish textile brand Kvadrat, has been reimagined, while big skin It is a sensory environment that combines real shots and 3D animations.

Photography: Stephanie Moschmer

“Pipelotti’s art allows us to see things we should but not see things, because we’re not looking close enough,” Berger says. there Alice in Wonderland A viewing perspective where the artist replaces macro details – such as the intricate veins of a plant – on suspended screens, or projects a coin-sized video on the floor, forcing the audience to think of a new spatial language. Berger adds, “What you don’t necessarily realize when you see her work is how accurate she is, not just with every color and pixel, but with equipment. She always pays for more equipment than anyone ever thought possible. A word I hear often is: “A dream.” But you are not dreaming of computer-generated images, you are dreaming of reality. That is what is so beautiful about Pipilotti’s work: this “realism” surprise.

Born Elizabeth Charlotte Rist (Pipilotti is Rist’s childhood nickname and literary heroine of Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking) in 1962, the artist is the second of five siblings (her younger sister, Tamara, a seamstress who regularly makes textiles for Pipilotti installations). Her late father was the son of a doctor baker. Her mother, the daughter of a farmer, works as a teacher. From the villages in canton St. Gallen where she grew up, Rest has found a gateway to music and popular culture through the media – it resonated with Yoko Ono in particular. “For a lot of people, including myself, this was an entrance into a world I wouldn’t have known,” the artist says. In the twentieth century, our autobiography is not defined by birth anymore. That was a huge development, and it started with my parents’ generation.

Photography: Stephanie Moschmer

Rist’s journey into video art was a serendipitous: she initially used Super 8 to create stage effects and visuals for performances during concerts for local music acts like Billion Bob and the women’s group Les Reines Prochaines. “I wanted to be in the service of music,” Rist explains. “In a way, I still create musical performances – except there are visitors instead of an orchestra.” Music still plays a role in her practice today: “Although I tend to look more at the picture, I pay close attention to sound so it doesn’t get neglected,” she says.

After graduating in 1986 from the Vienna Polytechnic Institute, the 24-year-old Rist returned to Switzerland and enrolled at the Design School in Basel, where she studied under Swiss artist René Pulver. During her first year of video studies, the artist presented I’m not the girl who misses so much (1986) To the Solothurn Film Festival – The seven-minute video was finally put into a group exhibition at the Basel Museum of Applied Arts. Rist has exhibited his work at the Venice Biennale and the São Paulo Art Biennial, as well as institutions around the world including the Geffen Contemporary Gallery in MOCA, Los Angeles, Museums of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney, and Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark. “I love the world of fine art because it is a protected space where you can bring all disciplines together,” she says.

This month’s limited edition cover features Pipilotti Rist’s installation details Planetenstaub neun neun (grün) (Planetary dust nine nine (green)), (2022), featuring a circular LCD screen with a molded polycarbonate housing. Limited edition covers are available to subscribers. Photography: Stephanie Moschmer

Manuela Wirth, co-founder of Hauser & Wirth, has represented Rist since 1997. The artist describes it as a “guiding light” for the exhibition: age or know-how. Mark Piot, Partner and Head of Hauser & Wirth, agrees that “the miracle of Pipilotti Rist is that it uses the camera to the same effect as the greatest brush painters. Where the first generation of video artists—such as Bruce Nauman—did so with respect to the limitations of the medium, Bibilotti released the video for free. She recreated it and opened a whole new form of expression, a masterful universe of its own. But at the same time, her work is filled with so much generosity that it attracts every kind of viewer.

Rist’s practice has evolved in tandem with technological advances, and today includes large video projects, digital processors, and ambitious installations. But in the mid-1980s, video creation and editing was definitely an analog process. I have always been an early adopter. My goal was to get the most out of these machines. Each screen has a different character. This is something I have to deal with as a video artist. The souls of those who invented these machines are always present. I remember going to Osaka to visit the Panasonic headquarters – it was almost a religious feeling to go to where the video display was invented. Despite her reverence for technology, the artist is careful not to let it entirely dictate her art practice. “Today, we’re spoiled and expecting higher resolutions—which is why our brains can’t fill in the missing gaps anymore,” says Rist. But of course, our feelings take up more space. This is why a painting can often contain more realism or truth than a very sharp image, because it gives more room for our interpretation. The extreme intensity limits the emotional impact you can convey.

I picked up Bibilotti Rest in her studio in Zurich. Photography: Stephanie Moschmer

Rist’s boundary-breaking work looks more at home outside the spaces of the White Cube – the installation of light Seelenlichter (Soul Lights) (2021), which transformed the Gstaad chalet into a Technicolor lantern, and Hit Levin Versabellen n jo (2022), a video projection in the square around Rotterdam warehouse Boijmans Van Beuningen, comes to mind, as Jordlys og pingpong med solen (Earthlight and Ping-Pong with the Sun) (2020), a permanent installation of the Danish School of Media and Journalism in Aarhus that includes four projections, multi-colored curtains and a large disco ball. The artist explains that such projects come with their own set of challenges. “Creating a work for public spaces requires compromises: from observance of weather conditions to a certain restriction of expression.” However, the “motion picture is hard to ignore.” She cites the problematic intervention she created in 2011 for the Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom designed by Jean Nouvel as an example where she had to make creative compromises to meet the needs of hotel clients as well as passersby. “Museums are an ideal space because people take their time,” she says, before adding that the stadium would be her dream board for artistic intervention.

In 2021, Kunsthaus Zürich opened its extension designed by David Chipperfield Architects with a collection of artwork spanning both genre and era, including Rist’s pixel forest (2021). The installation is on loan from art collector Werner Merzbacher, a Holocaust survivor who fled to Switzerland after his parents were murdered in a concentration camp. Rist explains of Merzbacher, who, with his wife Gabriele, built an extraordinary collection of modern masterpieces united by vibrant brushwork and bold shapes.

Inside the artist’s studio in Zurich. Photography: Stephanie Moschmer

The healing power of art is a quiet thread in Rist’s practice and it’s no wonder that its dazzling visual representations resonate with viewers on a deeper emotional level, even subconsciously. I received a letter from a psychiatrist stating that she had sent one of her severely depressed patients to visit her pixel forest. The patient said that for the first time in months, she felt a jolt of joy, ‘recalls Rist. “When someone is depressed, it is not important to know why the ship sank, but rather how the ship can board again.”

Sometimes the link to mental health is more obvious. Earlier this year, the Qatar National Museum unveiled the first installation of REST in the Middle East, Your brain is mine, my brain is yoursIn cooperation with the Ministry of Public Health. Visitors are invited to navigate 12,000 resin-encased LED lights – each representing neurons firing and communicating with each other – which are programmed to synchronize with a video installation showing abstract footage of the country scene. ‘Every day, I am amazed at the flexibility of other people’s minds – how much we hurt and then go on,’ says Rist, who does autogenic (relaxation technique) training, and also accept that everyone gets hurt. Balanced mind. I am convinced that art can help with mental health. Just a moment where you can forget about your problems relaxes your mind. Going to a museum is a ritual and can have a calming and relaxing effect.

Photography: Stephanie Moschmer

It is fitting then that the artist has been invited to create permanent work at the North New Zealand Hospital in Hellerud, Denmark. The cloverleaf-like design by Herzog & de Meuron is due to be completed in 2024, and features a garden at its center, where the projected Rist installation will take shape. We work closely with the gardener to either shine [the plants] Or use it as a backdrop, she explains, likening upcoming work (which will be lit for about ten minutes at night) with “fire.”

No wonder I walked away from my time with REST feeling fresh and rejuvenated – it’s such a good tonic in human form. By drawing us close to its chromatic orbit, REST brings us a large and wonderful picture for viewing. §

Photography: Stephanie Moschmer

The world of Pipilotti: Explore the artist’s wallpaper portfolio*

In the world of Pipilotti Rest, all things are bright and beautiful. Sit back and enjoy the aquatic life, immerse yourself in a forest of LED lights, gaze at luminous clothing lines, and dance against a backdrop of lively projections and architectural spaces. By opening our eyes to the strange and the wonderful, Rist brings us closer to nature – and to each other.

All artwork below, provided by Bibilotti Rist, Hauser & Wirth and Luhring Augustine

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