In her three-floor, thirty-year survey at the New Museum, Pipliotti Rist’s work is seen together in its largest solo exhibition to date. Most known for her pioneering videos created during the medium’s transition from analog to digital—her earliest work dates to 1986, the fuzzy, Joan Jonas-esque “I’m Not the Girl Who Misses Much,” and evolves through the present, engaging digital video installations, architectural interventions, and surround sound environments—the Swiss artist’s ever-updating voice uniquely addresses both the natural and the technological, insisting on the blurred, even artificial, quality of this division. Installed together at the New Museum, Rist’s work necessitates a reading of time that is contradictory: slow and chaotic, nonlinear and narrative, situated and universal.
Upon exiting the elevators to the first floor of the exhibition, one is confronted with sheer sheets of fabric that hang from the ceiling and have images of farm animals, flowers, and abstract, colorful shapes projected onto them. At approximately four feet wide and staggered throughout the first room, they linger in the wind created by passing viewers’ bodies, further distorting their imagery. As screens, perhaps these sheets fail, lacking the ability to present stable, clear images; however, the soft nature of the unfixed screen enables a more bodied viewing experience, allowing viewers to move the image, to sculpt it onto themselves and others. This is contrasted in the back left corner of the space where “Ever is Over All” (1997) is projected onto two screens that meet in a right angle. The left screen features a woman in a blue dress and sparkly red shoes—think Dorothy, but without the pigtails—who walks down a street smashing the windows of parked cars with a long-stemmed flower; the right screen depicts poetic, loose shots of similar flowers along with lush fields and blue skies. Both are in slow motion—the lag to their timing distills the violence of the woman’s act while also situating it as mellow.
“Looking Through Pixel Forest” (2016) jolts viewers in a new direction. Installed on the second floor of the exhibition, the installation features hanging strings of 3,000 crystal-shaped lights that oscillate between the colors of the pixels seen in the two videos playing elsewhere in the space, “Mercy Garden” and “Worry Will Vanish Horizon” (both 2014). As the lights transition from hot pink to lavender, neon green, aqua, and bright white, the videos play images of elements—water, grass, flowers, sky, bodies—on loop, edited to fold in on themselves as if viewed through a kaleidoscope. Again, Rist plays with timing, speeding the videos up, then down, to create glitches that are echoed in the lights’ transition of pixilated color.
On the third and final floor of the exhibition, viewers are invited to lay down on beds—complete with blue and green sheets and pillows—and look up at the ceiling, where “4th Floor to Mildness” (2016) plays on two amorphous screens. Against the soundscape created by Soap&Skin/Anja Plaschg, the video on the ceiling darts in and out of legibility; water splashes and bursts against a glass pane, the camera zips forward underwater then gets caught floating in low-tide, indecipherable blots of color move from the videos onto the beds and viewers with the help of four projectors scattered throughout the space. In the back corner is a diorama of a bedroom, which includes dollhouse-sized furniture and a scaled-down version of the same projection just seen in the museum. This self-reflexivity furthers Rist’s questioning of time. The viewer transitions from lying down to look up at an abstract video and projected color, to looking down into a contained representation of another experience with the same material. Rist folds viewership onto itself, inviting tactile, conflicting experiences with video.
Pipliotti Rist: Pixel Forest is on view at the New Museum (235 Bowery, New York, NY 10002) through January 15, 2017.