Tripping the light fantastic with video artist Pipilotti Rist

Escape into the weird and wonderful world of Pipilotti Rist, a video artist known for her playful and sensual exploration of the boundaries between fantasy and reality, femininity and self, writes Madeleine Hinchy.

Since the early 1990s, Switzerland-based Pipilotti Rist has ridden a technicolour dream of critical success, becoming one of the most engaging artists of her generation. Now Australian audiences are being introduced to the hypnotic visions of the Swiss video artist with I Packed the Postcard in My Suitcase, a solo show of her work at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art in Melbourne (ACCA) until 4 March.

Rist is a self-confessed pop-culture artist who pops a pin into the perceived pomposity of contemporary art in gleeful works that oscillate between the hysterically hyped and the hypnotically spaced out. Her ACCA exhibition features a series of site-specific works alongside her better-known creations, such as the hypersensational installation Gravity Be My Friend (2007), which invites visitors to lie on carpet sculptures while taking in an alternative reality projected on to twin screens on the ceiling.

The work displays the distinctive visual and aural language the artist has refined during her career, a deliciously sensual too-muchness that rejects the white-cube distance between object and viewer of much contemporary art. Typical Ristian devices include the use of dreamlike fragmented imagery to explore the spectrum of fantasy and reality, distraction and concentration, femininity and hysteria.

ABOVE: A timelapse video of ACCA crew installing Pipilotti Rist’s Gravity Be My Friend (2007).

It’s easy to lose yourself in Rist’s immersive environments. Psychedelic, saturated fields of colour wash over the viewer; dislocated images of gigantic flowers fade in and out. The body is shown in uncomfortably magnified close-ups that transform flesh and hair into corporal landscapes. Eroticised female bodies float, objects sink and bob in space, while hypnotic electronic beats lull you into a meditative state of absolute absorption.

As Rist explained in an interview with Christine Ross in 2000 (she has been tight-lipped in the past 10 years, preferring, it seems, to let her work speak for itself), she wants viewers to let go. “It is a space where you can try to find your presence. Not being in the past or in the future; just being there.” When the invitation to experience contemporary art is this kooky and fun, who could say no?

I Packed the Postcard in My Suitcase is at ACCA, 111 Sturt Street, Southbank Melbourne Vic, until 4 March.

This story was originally published on page 76 of Vogue Living Jan/Feb 2012.
Text: Madeleine Hinchy
Photographs/Video: Andrew Curtis; others courtesy of the artist and ACCA.


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