Pipilotti Rist: Painting with Pixels in Immersive Exhibits

It’s a rare occasion that I have to visit two galleries for the rockstar Swiss artist of immersive video and installation, Pipilotti Rist, but my travels recently took me to New York City’s Hauser & Wirth and Luhring Augustine to experience exhibits by Pipilotti, each presented in their own ways. At Hauser & Wirth, you become immersed in an interior space. In contrast, at Luhring Augustine, you start in the “backyard” and end in the darkness of another dimension. For both, I am intrigued with the concept of collaborative “blue-chip” gallery curation. That’s a separate topic, but I’m curious to see where this is going.

When you enter and remove your shoes for Pipilotti’s Prickling Goosebumps & Humming Horizon at Hauser & Wirth, you sense you have been invited to an urban apartment with mid-century mod decor. Instinctively, you know to find a place to relax in the living room or bedroom space and immerse yourself in the swirling video art shining on the rug and walls. Once you shake off the clutter in your busy urban mind, curiosity about the imagery moving and dissolving at your feet instigates contemplation. As a mixed-race Cherokee, a red and black Native American pattern dissolving on the floor, transported me back to my own white-washed family history. On the far wall, giant swaying leaves on trees trigger a hypnotic sense of peace. Art should take you to your memories and experiences, especially in the meditative state this work encourages. You can’t help but be aware of those around you, chilling on the couch or lying on the bed, a reminder of trying to concentrate at home with activity in the background. This experience is the opposite of formally looking at art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. On first impression, it’s cool and casual, like Los Angeles. But keep reading, as Pipilotti is far from superficial.

Once you shake off the clutter in your busy urban mind, curiosity about the imagery moving and dissolving at your feet instigates contemplation.

I recall Pipilotti’s Pour Your Body Out (7354 Cubic Meters) at the Museum of Modern Art from 2008 to 2009, when a video installation was just large scale video on large museum walls. There are layers to Prickling Goosebumps & Humming Horizon, transporting you to deeper focus on the intention of the work. Call it the evolution of contemporary art installation and technology. This immersive environment makes you feel comfortable, while upon further observation, discomfort creeps in.

Click image to enlarge.                                                

In Freeing the Wonderlight at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in 2019, Piplotti spoke about her work in a spiritual language referring to video as the third eye and breathing the soul into a white cube. One senses the human error of the destruction of nature and Mother Earth in the form of urbanization, development and the consequences of capitalism. Imagery is both jarring and soothing. Something about this work communicates intellectually and emotionally. For that reason, it could be popular. The Hilma af Klint exhibition at the Guggenheim provoked a similar response. There is a spiritual and scientific investigation happening in Pipilotti’s current work as well.

The video collages of close-up body parts, nature, and abstract elements articulate her ability to paint with pixels.

The video collages of close-up body parts, nature, and abstract elements articulate her ability to paint with pixels. Formally speaking, the moment the male genitalia and the eye closeup morphs into nature as digital abstraction is the aesthetically, on point, highlight. The still from that specific transition could be an interesting traditional painting. Observing the audience, viewers are often drawn to the human body and therefore the magnification of male genitalia and the eye were dominant in attracting a collective gaze. It’s amusing really, considering the academic discourse around the rules of the gaze. The hetero-male gaze is bad, the queer gaze is good and the female gaze, well, Pipilotti is pulling it off.

This meditative state is a journey of transformation, a gateway to a better place.

The more I sat under the video projected on curvilinear transparent forms, in the final cavernous room at Luhring Augustine, the more I thought about our scientific origins and elemental makeup. In other words, Pipilotti starts with collages of body, abstraction and nature and ends in the darker space without walls (or the universe), with a scientific connection to all of nature on Mother Earth and in the cosmos (I’m using the Native American divine definition of Mother Earth here). Pipilotti sparks the sacredness of nature and the scientific reminder of our origins simultaneously. You lie down on a provided pillow on the floor and once you have a sense of peace, you begin to see a portal to another dimension. Biomorphic blobs of light are calling you. You’ve escaped the destructive imprint of humans on earth. This meditative state is a journey of transformation, a gateway to a better place.

Who doesn’t love when something unexpected breaks your concentration, looking, and a wave of emotion hits you? In the dark vastness of what seemed like the inside of the body, the cosmos, or both (since we are designed of the same elements as the universe), I saw a little girl about four years old. She was lying on a pillow with her mom looking up. She looked with wonder, as adults should, and reached her little hand up with the desire to touch it. She stared at the projection much longer than a child’s attention span allows. She wanted to enter the abyss with a childlike wonder and lack of fear. I remember the urge to explore as a child, to discover what I could not see in the distance, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Children know that the journey is just as thrilling as the discovery. Maybe the journey is life and the discovery is the afterlife.

Consequently, Pipilotti’s installations indeed breathe the soul into a white cube. Prickling Goosebumps & Humming Horizon breathes life itself, exists with nature, warns us of our self-destructive behavior and extinguishes spirit back into the universe. Artists swerve from the spiritual to the logical and from the logical to the spiritual. In the end, it’s all political.

© Amanda Wall (2/29/24) – Special for FF2 Media ®

LEARN MORE/DO MORE

Learn more about Pipilotti Rist on her website.

Check out more information on the two museums: Hauser & Wirth and Luhring Augustine.

Visit the exhibit at Luhring Augustine in Chelsea, NYC on 24th Street from November 18, 2023 to March 30, 2024.

Visit the exhibit at Hauser & Wirth in NYC on 22nd Street from November 9, 2023 to April 6, 2024.

Visit Prickling Goosebumps & Humming Horizon at the Luhring Augustine, running now through March 30, 2024 or at Hauser & Wirth, running now through April 13, 2024.

CREDITS & PERMISSIONS

Featured photo: Pipilotti Rist, Neighbors Without Fences (2020). Installation view, Pipilotti Rist: Prickling Goosebumps & Humming Horizon, Luhring Augustine Chelsea, New York (November 18, 2023 – March 30, 2024). © Pipilotti Rist/ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Courtesy the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York, and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Farzad Owrang.

Middle photo: An area featured in Pipilotti Rist’s Prickling Goosebumps & Humming Horizon exhibit. Photo by Amanda Wall.

Bottom photo: Pipilotti Rist, Respect Scholarly Rock Hong Kong (2022). Installation view, Pipilotti Rist: Prickling Goosebumps & Humming Horizon, Luhring Augustine Chelsea, New York (November 18, 2023 – March 30, 2024). © Pipilotti Rist/ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Courtesy the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York, and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Farzad Owrang.

Tags: Amanda Wall, Guggenheim, Hauser & Wirth, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Luhring Augustine, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Pipilotti Rist, Prickling Goosebumps & Humming Horizon

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