sm[art]: Pipilotti Rist

Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist has been creating video and installation art since the 1980s and has recently finished her first feature film, Pepperminta. Rist gained notoriety in the early 1990s for her simple but sometimes explicitly sexual work, such as the video "Pickelporno".

Trailer for Pepperminta (2009)

In a November 11 New York Times Magazine feature, Rist discussed the widening gap between the "art world" and the "real world."

Rist often speaks about her distress that over the last 40 years or so, at least since the rise of Conceptualism, the gulf between the world of contemporary art and the world in general seems to be widening, with art viewed by too many people as some kind of parochial game played among artists, institutions and collectors. "When I see a really good work of art, sometimes I could just cry because more people aren't going to know about it," she says.

During our first conversation in New York, where she had stopped off briefly on her way to Brazil, she told me: "The whole question of how to put art into regular life is what interests me the most. I treat art as a service. I think of myself as a service worker."

Although much of Rist's work has been shown in galleries and museum installations, she has also shown her work to larger audience by broadcasting her videos on large public screens in London and New York City. In 2000, her nine-segment piece "Open My Glade" was played hourly on a screen overlooking Times Square as part of the Messages to the Public art program.

Rist also discusses the contrast between commercial and artistic film work in the NYT Magazine article:

Her own life is roughly coincident with the history of video art, which became possible with the production of the first consumer camera rig and video recorder by Sony in 1965. Rist has never engaged in any serious drawing or painting and, unlike many of her contemporaries, has made comparatively few sculptural pieces or other objects to satisfy collectors. I asked her why she is attracted to video work in a world already oversaturated with video images and screens, and she said it is precisely because of that fact. People spend an increasing portion of their waking hours now looking at moving images created by pixels; but most of that imagery is created under "commercial pressure," as Rist calls it, to sell things or support advertising. Though she certainly strives to complicate this visual environment, it's not one she judges with anything like straightforward anticonsumerism. "We've lived with this for a long time," she says. "We have the power to know which pictures we want to keep and which pictures we want to excrete from our minds." But she argues that we also need artists — she uses the wonderfully utopian term "free citizens," which can encompass a whole lot of what's being made for YouTube — to create a bank of other kinds of imagery as a counterbalance.

"Using moving images as much as possible for purely philosophical and poetical reasons and goals," she says, "can work as a shield or exorcism of the over-image-reproduced world." And the way to do this, in her opinion, is to borrow the language of television and movies that has become our visual lingua franca, with its color and speed and sensuality, then to reshape it profoundly — to let it wander off square screens and into the world, to heighten its color, to scramble the feeling of distance it gives us that simultaneously brings comfort and a kind of powerlessness. "I use the same ingredients, I think, but I am cooking a different meal," she says.

Ever Is Overall (1997)

I'm Not the Girl Who Misses Much (1986)

More of Rist's work can be found on YouTube and on her website,

by Sara Reihani
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1 Comment Has Been Posted

Perishable art?

After reading this post I made some time to look at all of Pipilotti Rist's work that I could find online and was pleasantly surprised at how much I could find and the quality of it. It's always great to find artists who leverage current medium's such as film and distribution channels such as the internet so skillfully. The only thing I wonder about is the life-span of this kind of digital art. We seem to be living in an age where all the media we interact with is very much perishable, mostly sooner than later. But perhaps it is fitting then that some of the art that evolves out of this phenomenon is as well.

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