Pipilotti Rist

Galerie Stampa

“Women’s philosophy should be brief, clear, and elegant,” a woman’s voice intones on the latest album of Les Reines Prochaines. The voice is that of Pipilotti Rist, who is a member of an all-female band. Her video installations seem drawn at once from life in the Middle Ages and life in the suburbs. Rist films and edits her videotapes herself. Even the title, Pickelporno (Pimple-porno, 1992), indicates that her work is concerned with sensual close-ups—with close-up shots of the skin that transform pimples and pores into potholes and stumbling blocks—and that the subjective magnifying glass is out of focus. Precisely measured chaos: over- and underexposures, stuntlike camera angles, and saccharine sweet colors transport these videos from the arena of the technological to the realm of a well-worn hominess.

“Video is like a compact handbag; everything about art and music is in it,” Rist once explained. And what it doesn’t have—the extension into the spatial—she creates with objects. She stashed a ball-shaped monitor into a ratty, old bathing suit which sagged to the floor like a bloated stomach. Through the yellow material one could vaguely see a probe into a stomach. Another monitor was placed in a mirror which stood on a yellow-and-pink makeup table. On the table there were test tubes containing red, green, and blue fluids in which artificial fingernails, eyelashes, or cotton swabs swam. Looking into the mirror, one saw, instead of one’s own mouth, an enlarged foreign one, that seemed always to be kissing the viewer.

TV-Luster, 1993, six video monitors mounted on an oval pole, above which hung a dense curtain of cut-glass beads, could have offered enough light for the opera ball in Vienna except that the psychedelic flood of images (a lounging Ophelia, the birth of Barbie, a rose stuck between toes) would not have been suited to the bejeweled heads of the debutantes. From the tape sounded an endless waltz—the artist’s pastiche of Johann and Josef Strauss’s Pizzicato Polka mixed with the sounds of bells.

She struck other tones in a darkened room with floor-length, deep-red velvet curtains. On the floor lay a monitor, the screen turned up, depicting flowing water mixed with blood spewing from a fountain, topped by a many-layered cake crowned by a plastic ballerina. Two videos were projected on the wall, unmistakably illuminating the fountain and its red liquid. Blood flowing over legs, arms, and backs created a small stream, making one’s own blood rush through one’s veins.

Claudia Jolles

Translated from the German by Charles V. Miller