PIPILOTTI RIST, GROSSMUT BEGATTE MICH, 1994, & SIP MY OCEAN, 1996
Video stills of installation tapes
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Botticelli's Venus Landing on the Shore. Boucher's The Triumpf of Venus.
The first fishlike species who for approximately threehundred and fifty
years ago crawled from water to land. The foetus all covered with water in
the belly of the mother. It is all about water symbolizing the origin of
life and its never-ending rotation.
Anna Orrghen writes about the art of Pipilotti Rist - the strong link to the flow of water and rotation but also the break with worldly order.
by ANNA ORRGHEN, Material Nr 33-34 1998
Water is a recurring theme in the art
of Pipilotti Rist, where the most palpable references are to be found in
titles like Selfless in the Lava Bath, Sea of Coffee and Sip My Ocean. The
last one is almost only filmed beneath the surface of water. The camera
takes you slowly on a voyage of discovery focusing on artefacts that
originally belong to the life on earth as they slowly sink to the depths of
the ocean. Opposite the slow motions, a consequence of them beeing
performed in water, the colours are bright. A contrast captured in the
accompaning music, Pipilotti Rist's cover version of Chris Isaak's Wicked
Game, where she sometimes hum and sometimes shriek out the lyrics.
The reference to water is not only to be found in the titles but also from the point of view of content. There is a strong connection to water in Mutaflor, a one and a half minute long video clip where the artist accompanied by a beautiful, dreamlike music floats through the air with the same rotating movements and slow speed as if she was moving in water.
This rotating movement is a recurrent feature of her art and generates a flow containing stylistic similarities with the writings of George Bataille. In his short text [Dream] the lyrics are poetically caressing and flows as incoherent as the speech during the act of psychoanalysis. Now and then the sentence is completed with a full stop and the next one begins with a capital letter, all according to the grammatical rules, only to at the following moment pass into a new subject without any grammatical premonition what so ever (i.e. full stop, comma or capital letter) that a swift of contents has taken place. Similarities are also to be found from the point of view of content. In The Solar Anus George Bataille writes that "The two primary motions are rotation and sexual movement". He mentions the phallus leaving the body only to reenter it, plants raising towards the sun, wither away, die and generate new plants, the clouds who transform into rain, fall down to earth in purpuse to give life to new plants that raise towards the sky. Common for both of these movements is their generation of life. The rotation in the ecological system and the sexual movements in the coitus.
The essential part of the form of life as rotating and as one more similarity between the art of Pipilotti Rist and the writings of George Bataille is water. In The Solar Anus described as the origin of everything. "Animal life comes entirely from the movement of the seas and, inside bodies, life continues to come from salt water. The sea, then, has played the role of the female organ that liquifies under the excitation of the penis."
Although the strong link to the flow of water and rotation which is to be found in for instance Sip My Ocean and Mutaflor the art of Pipilotti Rist is characterized by an ambiguity as she at the same time brakes down references to the worldly order by questioning spatiality where the law of gravity is the uniting force. In Mutaflor she floats around in the air without any contact between her body and the walls or floor in the room. A physical impossibility. In Flying Room chairs, tables, a carpet, a lamp and a video monitor hang upside down in the ceiling at a Swiss bank office. The actresses of the video clips are bank employees. The bank director, for the occasion shrienked to the same size as the members of The Beatles in their movie Help, flies (once again the connection to the theme of flow) over a deserted landscape of artefacts to be found in an office. In the video installation The Room the furnitures (a sofa, an armchair, a lamp and a painting) have adopted oversized dimensions. The only things that are still in their normal size are the TV-sets. But at the same time as the viewer climbs up into one of the funitures her body mentally turns into the size of the body of a child. Only the fact that she is physically forced to climb up into either the sofa or the armchair before she is able to sit down and when seated her legs dangle above the ground, brings back memories from the childhood. By hanging up furnitures in the ceiling and floating around in a room, Pipilotti Rist throws away the thought of a static rotation.
The ambiguity described above is also to be noticed in her own shape, as she for example in the 3-D image I've Only Got Eyes for You - (Pin Down Jump Up Girl) with hydrogen peroxided hair and an ironical glint in her eyes, only wearing underpants, is perched on a chair holding the remote control in a steady grasp directed towards you, her shrieking song in Sip My Ocean or frenetic demolishing of car windows in Ever is Over All, one of the videos payed most attention to during the Venice Bienale this summer. Simultaneously as she behaves like a stubborn little girl who refuses to do it in no other way than her own, she promises you all her affection and attention.
An apt question related to the mentioned ambiguity of the art of Pipilotti Rist is, if she questions the same worldly order that she in another way confirm, does it also mean that she calls life and rotation, that she depicts by using the symbol of water, into question as well? I.e. is she making a fool of the viewer by her seductive video installations? The answer must be no. On the contrary, by dealing with the law of gravity in an unconventional way and crossing the physical borders of natural science, her art bubbles over with life and testifies to a fascinating artisticalness symbolizing life using the metaphors of water and rotation.~