She likes to eat red beets a lot. She uses an alias given to her based off a fictional character from her childhood. She believe’s that art’s task is to contribute to evolution, to encourage the mind, to provide positive energies, to research possibilities and to destroy clichés and prejudices.
Elisabeth Charlotte “Pipilotti” Rist is a Swiss artist whose focuses involve video-audio installations wrought with alterations to their colour, speed and sound. Her works generally treat subjects related to gender, sexuality and the human body.
As a child of the 1960’s, Rist grew up with the media of television and pop culture, and the success of her practice is often attributed to her effortless handling of the phenomena of mass culture. From 1988 to 1994 she was part of a musical group called Les Reines Prochaines, and from 2002 to 2003 she taught at UCLA as a visiting professor. in 1997, Rist was even appointed director of the Swiss Expo, a position she gave up a year later.
She has become an influence in the art world recognised for her abilities to express herself not only in her work, but through the responses to her work as well.
Pipilotti Rist stirs up the mind using pop, everyday life, TV — addressing all the senses and arousing feel-good emotions. The Guardian describes her work as visceral, earthy, sexy and full of life. Her interdisciplinary projects with music and moving images, her wittily cultivated personality and her ever-changing wardrobe make her a starlet of the art scene. The New Yorker critic Peter Schjeldahl desribes Pipilotti Rist as “an evangelist of happiness”, spreading good will through expositions at museums and festivals throughout Europe, Japan and the US, including biennials in Sao Paolo, Venice, Istanbul, the Caribbean and Santa Fe.
In 2000 the Public Art Fund NY commissioned Open My Glade for screening in Times Square. Other works like I’m Not the Girl Who Misses Much (1986), Yoghurt on Skin, Velvet on TV (1995), Sip My Ocean (1996), and Remake of the Weekend (1998), blur boundaries between visual art and common culture and explore the unfamiliar in the everyday.
A misunderstood amount of underwear flaps in the breeze outside in London. In 2011 Pipilotti Rist opened her show Eyeball Massage at the city’s Hayward Gallery, and to welcome attendees she hung, not scant lacy knickers or silky boxers, but big saggy pantaloons in every shade of white: soft, worn and rather innocent. Eyeball Massage was the artist’s first major public survey in the UK, presenting videos, sculptures and installations spanning her career from the 1980’s to the present day.
The first thing viewers saw was her underwear light fixture, titled Massachusetts Chandelier, made of previously worn and washed underpants, two flashcard players and one translucent light bulb. Rist believes underwear to be the temple of the abdomen, that this part of the body is very sacred as the site of our entrance into the world, the centre of sexual pleasure and the point where the body’s garbage takes its leave. The piece emphasises Rist’s fascination with the human body and highlights the sensuousness and normality of sexuality. It is a delightful work in which many themes of contemporary art itself are re-affirmed as Pipilotti Rist reconceptualised the meaning of underwear by hanging it upside down from above and allowing viewers to see banal objects in a new light. It’s also something of a readymade — found objects defying their standard purposes.
The artist’s visual environments place particular importance on the viewer’s physical presence, and has commented, “When I close my eyes, my imagination roams free. In the same way I want to create spaces for video art that rethink the very nature of the medium. I want to discover new ways of configuring the world, both the world outside and the world within.”
Pipilotti Rist has proven herself a major influence in the art world, one exuberant and ambitious. Her portfolio reflects contemporary art at its finest, allowing for new sorts of curiously honest engagement in untrodden locales and reaching for new ways of being with ourselves.
Sources: Grosenick, Uta, Women Artists in the 20th and 21st Centuries, London: Taschen, 2001
Osborne, Sabrina, Eyeball Massage: Pipilotti Rist, 2011
Searle, Adrian, “Pipilotti Rist: big time sensuality”, The Guardian, [Online] 26th