By DAVID JAGER December 13, 2023
Rist’s aesthetic world is a world of alluring interconnectivity. In her work, everything playfully impinges upon or merges into everything else. A pioneer in single-channel video, installation and multimedia, she is currently revelling in the ubiquity of video and its ability to saturate every available surface. The self-described ‘wild and friendly’ Rist is about using multimedia to create immersive environments that effect behavioral change, installations that tease at the invisible boundaries that shape human interaction and behavior.
The tricky line between public and private space has also consistently fascinated her. In her current street level show at Hauser & Wirth's 22nd street location, viewers are treated to her domestically themed sculptures, many of them new to the public, featuring video projected onto domestic objects in sculptural configurations. There is an antique marble fireplace -complete with bar- entitled “Ich Brenne Fur Dich” or ‘I Burn For You.” There is “Over Hill and Dale” a miniature toy stable housing a rock frantically animated with rapidly shifting video. There are tooth shaped sculptures with flakes of metal, translucent and glittery, posing as possible chairs: “I think you can sit on them”, one gallery goer said to another. Wooden gymnastic rings hung from the ceiling in the space, inviting visitors to test their strength. One of them attempted a muscle up.
Rist’s work, always openly interactive, handily demonstrates how easily people shift their behavior given the right environmental cues. Her video installation cum lounge, titled ‘Petting Colors’, occupies the large back room of the gallery. In it she has set up carpet islands awash in gently swirling multicolored projections. Each island has sofas and soft sculptural seating inviting people to sit, talk and hang out. I found myself standing next to a bed at the far end of the installation, watching people comfortably sprawled and chatting away. Everyone seemed very relaxed. The young man lying in bed below me looked up and said “You should lie down. It’s really comfy. Here get under the covers.” He sounded very casual and matter of fact. He lifted the comforter and scooted over to make room.
I get in next to him and note that the mattress is kind of saggy.
“Perfect for me,” he says. “I’ve been sleeping on couches for the last few months. This is great.”
His name is Jason Guan, and he works as a photographer’s assistant for the New York Times. Jason is soon joined by Natasha Gilberti, a movement artist, and her shy friend Rob.
“Isn’t this great?” Natasha enthuses. “No walking around in a space looking at things and feeling bad about yourself!”
“You mean, feeling bad because you’re afraid that you don’t understand the art?” I ask her.
“YASS!” she says enthusiastically, (giving me a high five). “That’s exactly it.”
Lying in bed with two strangers, I realize that Rist has succeeded in creating a radically different gallery going experience. It is not the usual stiff-necked peering at painting or sculpture in a white walled room, waiting to be edified. Natasha has a point.
But there are other shows to see, of the stiff-necked variety, so I get out of bed, a little reluctantly. Then I take a picture of my fellow bedmates.
“I’m writing a review of this show for Whitehot Magazine,” I tell them. “And I’m putting you all in it, because I think Rist wanted everyone here to a part of the art. So... congratulations, you’re art!”
“Cool!” they all say in unison.
The trio flash big grins and a thumbs up.
Walking out with a smile on my face, I think of other artists who engage with the social. Rikrit Tirivanija and his Pad Thai dinners. The unjustly neglected VALIE EXPORT, whose ‘Tap and Touch Cinema’ invited strangers to reach into a carboard box surrounding her naked body and explore it with their hands. I thought of Abramovic’s more theatrical and sadistic performances, such as lying naked and prone on a platform and inviting the audience to do what they will to her. Rist is the most light-hearted and perhaps sensuous of social artists, someone committed to putting together serene pop spaces that encourage conviviality, curiosity and relaxation.
The world may be going to hell in a thousand horrific ways, here in the city and throughout the world, but here Rist has established, for a brief interlude anyway, a peaceable and convivial living room.
Pipilotti Rist: Prickling Goosebumps and a Humming Horizon is on view at Hauser & Wirth through January 13, 2024. WM
David Jager is an arts and culture writer based in New York City. He contributed to Toronto's NOW magazine for over a decade, and continues to write for numerous other publications. He has also worked as a curator. David received his PhD in philosophy from the University of Toronto in 2021. He also writes screenplays and rock musicals.view all articles from this author