Lush and Edenic, sexy but sinless, the hedonistic pleasure worlds created by Pipilotti Rist delight, revive and relax. Her vivid video environments take the viewer into an elemental dream state: earth, wind, fire and water are all alchemically activated in her mesmerising loops of trippy experience. A new creation for the 19th Biennale of Sydney: You Imagine What You Desire, Mercy Garden Retour Skin (2014) offers audiences an aquarium of experience. The huge walls of the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia are splashed with Rist’s dazzling visions, inspired by alpine and village life. Visitors are encouraged to lie and sit, cuddling up to their person cushions; happy companions in this special, hyper-visual universe.
Rist creates immersive art installations that consume both mind and body. Since the 1980s the Swiss artist has gained considerable international attention, notably for her evocative video works resembling dream-like, sensual pleasure-worlds of vivid colour and light. Her microcosms are ethical places made with deliberate joy and optimism – restorative, refreshing worlds for the times in which we live. They contemplate ecology, science and human symbiosis with nature, to make us aware of our obligations in which care of the all, and the other, is care of the self. Her work unites nature and culture, re-creating and representing their delights through the reveries of her exuberant imagination.
Much of our lives is spent attending to screens and pixelated images. Rist borrows techniques from film and television and drastically alters them; removing them from their square-screen format and allowing moving images to appear in unassuming places – from the tiny inside of a liquor bottle, shell or woman’s handbag, to the wondrously huge projections across entire galleries and on church ceilings. Rist is profoundly interested in the perception of colour, particularly the common distaste towards colour that is vivid or intense. Her works are a celebration of the minutiae or details in life, often incorporating elements of nature in her examination of themes including gender, sexuality and the human body.
As Rist intends her work to physically engage the body of the viewer, she pays much attention to the way in which her works are installed. She seeks comfort for the audience – referring to art as a service and herself as a service provider – and so frequently includes beanbags, couches or piles of carpet as part of her installations. As her projections grow increasingly larger, so the viewer becomes eclipsed by the scale of the illumination. Sprawled before or beneath her works, the audience is encouraged to relax and let Rist’s hedonistic and spectacular world of opulence seep in.
Pour Your Body Out (7354 Cubic Meters) (2008) was a towering site-specific installation that filled the atrium of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in swarming pools of light. Commissioned especially for the atrium space (and titled for the 7354 cubic metres that make up its volume), the work consisted of a sequence of 25-foot-high moving images, which visitors could experience while walking through the space, or sprawled on bespoke seating in the centre of the room. Pour Your Body Out was a directive, a wish, addressed to the body of each viewer; the artist hoped the largesse of the space would encourage bold movement and expansion in both mind and body.
Rist’s works have been exhibited widely at institutions and festivals worldwide, with recent solo shows held at Guangdong Times Museum, Guangzhou (2013); Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle (2013); Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul (2012); Centraal Museum Utrecht (2012); Hayward Gallery, London (2011–12); Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne (2011); Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (2010); Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki (2009); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2008); and Centre Pompidou, Paris (2007), among many others. Her work has been included in group exhibitions internationally at Talbot Rice Gallery, University of Edinburgh (2013); Institute of Contemporary Art Boston (2013); Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC (2013); 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa (2012); Nikolaj Kunsthal, Copenhagen Contemporary Art Centre (2012), 54th Venice Biennale (2011); Istanbul Modern (2011); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (2010); Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2009); 49th October Salon, Belgrade (2008); and Museo d´Arte Contemporanea, Rome (2007). In 2000 New York’s Public Art Fund commissioned Open My Glade for Times Square, and in 2005 Rist represented Switzerland at the 51st Venice Biennale.