Pipilotti Rist is a woodland pixie who has brought her technological creations to New York City. In her very first New York survey, Pipilott Rist: Pixel Forest, the prolific artist shares video and multimedia installations from her thirty year career. Ms. Rist’s videos are projected on the walls and ceilings of the New Museum, occupying the three main floors of the building. Her video installations are renowned for fully utilizing large spaces, and turning them into colorful, moving dreamscapes, which are accompanied by a pleasing musical score. The museum website boasts: “Her mesmerizing works envelop viewers in sensual, vibrantly colored, kaleidoscopic projections that fuse the natural world with the technological sublime.” Ms. Rist’s enchanting works also challenge viewers to become immersed in the natural world, presented in a highly technological manner.
Immediately upon entering the museum, guests observe the piece titled: Nichts (Nothing), which consists of a steel box emitting bubbles filled with smoke. Beside it a handwritten sign bears an ambiguous explanation for the piece:
“Machine dispensing soap bubbles with smoke = peace bombs ~ every 10 min– You better not touch. Please write your family a postcard. Thanks, Pipi.”
During the press opening, the artist stands off to the side outfitted in a powder blue jumpsuit and thick rim glasses, with her short blonde hair pulled back. Born in Grabs, Switzerland, Ms. Rist, (affectionately known as “Pipi”) studied graphic design, illustration, and photography at the University of Applied Arts Vienna. She also studied audiovisual communications and video at the Basel School of Design. Hailed as one of the most influential contemporary video artists of the century, and a pioneer of the medium, she presently lives and works in Zurich, exhibiting her video installations worldwide.
On the second floor of the museum, you have the opportunity to sit in the viewing area composed of big green pillows and a comfortable rug. By providing a rest area, guests are encouraged to fully immerse themselves in the transfixing piece: Ever is Overall, which is projected on the wall. The video depicts, in slow motion, a young woman wearing a sky blue dress and striking red pumps as she makes her way cheerily down a city sidewalk. She dons a deranged smile and waves to a passerby, before violently smashing the windows of cars lining the street. Her weapon of choice is a vibrant, orange, tropical flower which is later revisited at the end of the short video. The piece has been heralded by viewers and critics alike, even inspiring the likes of Beyoncé, who has been criticized for stealing certain visual elements for her own music video, Hold Up. The second floor is also home to some of the artist’s early works which are projected inside triangular-shaped booths intended for a single viewer at a time–the spatial quality of the pieces making for an intimate experience.
Ascending to the third floor, guests step into a mystical land of light and color. On this floor, Ms. Rist has fashioned a thicket of suspended, glowing crystals. The stunning installation is composed of 3,000 irregularly-shaped plastic globes, each lit up with a pixel from a video projected on the opposite walls. Pixel Forest has been deemed by The New York Times, “among the most bedazzling pieces of light art you may ever see.” Again, a deeply engaging and experiential installation where you feel pleasantly adrift in an enchanted wood.
Among the most bedazzling pieces of light art you may ever see
The third floor includes other captivating works from Ms. Rist’s generative career including Mutaflor, which is projected on the floor, and Massachusetts Chandelier, a two-channel video installation comprised of used and washed undergarments which form a shelter around a single light bulb. By the time you reach the fourth and final floor of the exhibit, you may feel a bit fatigued–the experience is as overwhelming as it is euphoric. It’s time to wind down, and this is perfect, since the main space of this level is filled with different bedframes and mattresses, made complete with pillows and sheets. The artist has an underwater bedtime story, queued up in the form of a video titled: 4th Floor to Mildness, which is projected onto two amorphous ceiling screens–making the piece most comfortable to view completely horizontal. Accompanied by a score by Austrian artist, Anja Plaschg, images of pink clouds, water plants, bubbles, and naked limbs dance across the screen–it’s almost enough to lull you to sleep. And should you dream of Ms. Rist’s sensuous and natural, light-filled world, you’ll never want to wake.