pipilotti rist literally gets under our skin

Getting spiritual and exploring the religious potential of nature with the Swiss video artist.

by Lily Bonesso
16 January 2015, 11:02am

Pipilotti Rist's videos go far beyond lip-licking visuals. Her vision extends to encompass our entire physical experience so that we feel, as she puts it "collectively consoled and rinsed." Rist's films show us leaves, flowers and dew-laced spiderwebs with a macro lens. Her trademark is the odd inclusion of an eyeball, squishy and blinking. She even somehow films inside the body, picking out capillaries with flawless definition. You enter the gallery, you lie down, you watch highly saturated images play across a screen and you leave feeling comforted. It sounds like indulgence, but it feels like a religious experience. This is partly because Rist appropriates Johannes Heinrich Shultz's 1932 relaxation technique of "Autogenic Training" into her work, a meditation style practice.

Throughout her work Rist repeatedly seeks to "find the sequences and speeds that re-link the world in front and behind the eyelids." This oneness is not just the continuity within her work but the idea that we are one with each other, the world and the universe. Rist has been branded "the evangelist of happiness" and the nickname fits. It's weird, then, that she sees her work as "complete sadness." Either she has totally mis-communicated, or, her sadness and our happiness are the same thing. Her work is like therapy, so what we actually experience is her, and our own, catharsis.

Which are your favourite pieces of your work?
In many moments it is the newest one - purely as a survival tactic. When I am sad and exhausted, I try to remember my personal tiny blockbusters like I Am Not The Girl Who Misses Much, Selfless In the Bath Of Lava, Ever Is Over All and Sip My Ocean.

How do you come up with your titles?
There are no rules - some titles are forced positive evocations, some have followed me for years, some are given by friends and some are the final extract of long lists. Anyway, I think of all titles as short poems.

Can you explain Autogenic Training to us?
Imagine flying slowly from the toes to the head. Listen to the breath; it's ok how it breathes, no particular speed needed just listen / listen to the heart beat, somewhere at a pulsing vessel it is audible. The arm lies heavy, falls through the mattress, through the floors, into the earth where it gets warm; the arm is warm. The middle of the chest is fluid yellow and orange and flows out the solar plexus over the whole surface of the earth.

How does this influence your work?
To do a room with this concentration was my motivation for the installation Worry Will Vanish at Hauser & Wirth.

Why did you choose Anders Guggisberg to do the sound for Worry Will Vanish?
He is an artist himself (in a duo with Andreas Lutz) sculpting, painting, writing. I hold a lot of importance on his opinions about many different things. Music is not his main practice, which makes his music kind of fearless and not polished.

What do you think about the idea that your work highlights our relationship with the universe at large, demonstrating that we are all one giant organism?
I love your interpretation and yes we are indeed a brutally tiny fraction of the universe but also an ocean in ourselves, with all the blood waves though our veins. I believe that when we are dancing we are shaking all the microbes on our skin.

In Worry Will Vanish there is an image of a naked woman jumping. It is strangely comical. Do you ever worry that people might take you less seriously if they find your work funny?
No, I'm not afraid. I don't think that being funny is a contradiction to being serious, as beauty is not always corrupt.

This naked woman was an almost embarrassing reminder of the female form. It made me giggle. How do you feel about this reaction?
Shame is a funny subject and extremely relative. Wasn't this jumping figure not a clear reminder that we all look like a crossbreed of caterpillars with pigs?

Some people have called you a feminist, because your work often deals with the often sad, awkward, experience of being a woman. Do you agree with them?
I thank them. Feminism in political questions unfortunately isn't yet obsolete, not even in spoiled societies. But if I am with good people I don't have to persist on being a feminist as it can become selfish, but if an asshole asks me, I am still proud to be called a feminist.

Do you have any ambitions for projects that aren't artworks?
Oh there are so many, realising a big wild playground or starting a restaurant chain that celebrates rituals around cannabis in a similar cultivated style like most restaurants do with alcohol, are just two.

Who would be your ideal person to collaborate with?
The ones I already have done and those I continue working with. Among others I admire are: Cat Solen, brother and sister Dreijer of The Knife, Jeppe Hein, John Koermeling, Jessica Stockholder and Marjetika Potrc.

What would you create with them?
A multilayered joyful sparkling skyscraper from wood for lots of people.

I read that you are concerned with how to put art into regular life and that you see your art as a service. But how could you make your art more accessible to people who cannot easily travel to different countries to see your shows?
You are right, I have a tendency to use physical rooms, my team and I use our fuel trying to be the good hosts of a collective bed. I always wanted to escape the rectangle screens and limited body postures. But if the video and audio content proves good we could always later do an Internet friendly version, can't we?

Stay Stamina Stay is on at Hauser and Wirth, Somerset, until February 22nd 2015.


Text Lily Bonesso

Hauser and Wirth
Pipilotti Rist