Pipilotti Rist’s serene ‘pixel forest’ explores the chaos of our digital lives

Written by Rebecca Cairns, CNNHong Kong

In a darkish room in the midst of Hong Kong, there is a new reprieve from the bustling metropolis. It is a forest — though it seems to be nothing just like the dense greenery overlaying the close by mountains.

This one glows. The so-called “pixel forest” is made up of three,000 LED lights, suspended by plastic cables that twist like vines, blinking purple, blue, inexperienced, yellow and pink, in tandem with the music. The shiny black flooring types a glassy lake that displays every tough, twinkling crystal, making a type of infinity.

The immersive work from multimedia artist Pipilotti Rist was impressed by her expertise utilizing digital actuality goggles. Though she mentioned she might really feel the room round her, the 60-year-old “felt extraordinarily lonely,” she recalled.

Rist examines the inner chaos of our digital world by what she referred to as a “tough, uncooked digital actuality” that viewers can contact and discover. Strolling by her pixel forest, it is onerous to not image your self standing inside a cellphone or laptop computer display — or, to see a type of magnificence on this damaged down and blown-up model of our digital world. The expertise could assist guests acknowledge how straightforward it’s to develop into misplaced in know-how.

“It is generally an phantasm. Individuals assume, ‘Oh, we’re completely involved,’ however really, being collectively (in individual) is one thing completely completely different,” Rist mentioned.

The set up is amongst nearly 50 of her works on present at her first solo exhibition in Hong Kong, “Behind Your Eyelid,” which showcases three many years of labor on the JC Up to date gallery. In it, Rist additionally considers the issues that separate us, and the facades we should pierce by to attach with each other.

“I attempt to deliver the digital in entrance, or out, of the display — to deliver it extra into the room,” mentioned Rist.

Mild from unlikely locations

Born in Grabs, Switzerland, in 1962, Rist has been a fixture on the visible arts scene for the reason that Nineteen Eighties. However she unexpectedly entered mainstream consciousness in 2016, when it was prompt that Beyoncé’s music video “Maintain Up” had taken inspiration from the set up “Ever is Over All.”

Beyoncé by no means formally credited the artist’s 1997 work — which depicts a carefree Rist in purple heels and a blue gown, skipping down a avenue swinging a long-stemmed purple flower — as an inspiration. The scene was immediately recognizable, although: a girl skipping nonchalantly down a car-lined avenue smashing home windows, baseball bat in hand.

“Ever is Over All” (1997) is a two-channel video: one facet reveals fields of flowers, whereas the opposite (pictured) reveals Rist skipping down a car-lined avenue, flower in hand. Credit score: CNN

Rist, who creates her work collaboratively with a group of audio, mild and video technicians, was flattered by the obvious nod. “I assumed it was cool that individuals who could by no means go to artwork exhibitions abruptly bought the reference to a video artist,” she mentioned. “Possibly they did not even know that (‘Ever is Over All’) exists.”

The baseball bat introduced a “sure aggression” to the scene, mentioned Rist — whereas her personal flower-turned-weapon was a extra playful touch upon feminine energy and autonomy, a key theme in Rist’s work. Rist even speculated that she was drawn to her chosen medium, video artwork, as a result of “it wasn’t taken by males.”

Whereas each ladies and men characteristic in her movies, the previous dominate. But, she takes exception to the concept that she has a choice for profiling ladies: “The ability construction is such that we take (ladies) as an exception. For me, I at all times tried to say, ‘No, that is the human.'”

In her Hong Kong exhibition, depictions of feminine torsos cling suspended from the ceiling, a Pop-Artwork twist on Greek and Roman sculptures. One is a stiff yellow swimsuit, with a small ’90s-style tv balanced within the hollowed-out crotch, whereas one other has mild emanating from the place the legs ought to be.

Rist’s video set up “Digesting Impressions” (1993/2013) encompasses a looping video performed on a tv inside a swimsuit. Credit score: Rebecca Cairns / CNN

Mild projecting from pelvises is a standard motif in Rist’s artwork. (“It is the place we noticed the sunshine once we got here out from our moms,” she defined.) And her humor can be showcased in her chandelier of underpants, which performs with the double entendre of “mild” which means each to shine and be light-weight.

“(The pelvis) is controversial for us, between disgrace and fervour and stinking and pleasure,” Rist mentioned, pointing to the idiom, “to not air one’s soiled laundry” and what it says about conserving our darkness, our issues, and our struggles, a secret. “I needed to make it mild.”

Peeling again layers

Throughout the three-floor exhibition, Rist showcases her unimaginable vary: A long time-old works sit alongside new, site-specific installations, whereas complete immersive rooms are adopted by single screens. In a single occasion, a tiny display the dimensions of a ping-pong ball is embedded within the flooring, displaying the 1994 six-minute looping video “Selbstlos im Lavabad” (Selfless in The Bathtub Of Lava), that includes a screaming girl trapped in a fiery purgatory.

Most of the items have been created many years in the past, but Rist’s artwork is in some way “at all times tailored to the latest know-how,” mentioned exhibition curator Tobias Berger. He highlights the 1996 work, “Sip My Ocean,” a two-channel video that, in its unique kind, would have proven on a a lot smaller projector. Now the work fills two partitions, from flooring to ceiling, on a theater-size display. Enhancements in audio know-how additionally add one other dimension to the works, Berger added, “so even the outdated works in each exhibition are nearly site-specific new works.”

The “Central Hong Kong Chandelier” (2021) sits alongside “Huge Pores and skin” (2022), blurring the mundane and fantastical. Credit score: Rebecca Cairns / CNN

Initially commissioned in 2019, earlier than the pandemic, the exhibition was two years within the making. However Berger believes the isolation and nervousness of Covid-19 have made the present — and its recurring theme of human connectedness — extra related than ever. Rist herself skilled isolation whereas making ready for the exhibition, spending 21 days in quarantine final 12 months with the intention to enter Hong Kong and get a really feel for the gallery area.

Rist created two totally new works for the exhibition. Outdoors, an enormous projection transforms the previous jail yard wherein the gallery is positioned right into a “glade within the metropolis,” the place Rist hopes folks will collect and join in individual.

And inside, the brand new “Huge Pores and skin” intallation ties collectively the exhibition’s central metaphor: membranes. Semi-translucent white “skins” are suspended from the ceiling, whereas video projections depicting galaxies and pure landscapes — a combination of actual footage and animations — play throughout their surfaces. Like floating clouds, they take up and emit mild, creating eerie shadows at the same time as they present soothing scenes of autumnal leaves.

For Berger, the authenticity of Rist’s artwork is a part of the allure — as a result of, regardless of its surrealism, none of it’s computer-generated. “I believe that is what the fascination is, why individuals are so interested in her work: There’s nothing pretend, all the things is actual,” he mentioned.

“Water Tiger Color Balm” (2022) is
an outside video set up, created for the area outdoors the JC Up to date Gallery in Tai Kwun, Hong Kong. Credit score: Tai Kwun

The ultimate room, “The House,” offers a former girl’s jail cell the looks of a house: A eating desk and chairs, a settee and sideboard, and a day mattress, are surrounded by the litter of homey trinkets, lots of that are from Hong Kong, and a portray by a neighborhood artist. However projections transfer throughout the area like ghosts, a setup extra uncanny than acquainted.

As within the pixel forest, Rist immerses the viewer in a dreamlike mixture of lights, colours and sound that foil the on a regular basis. She offers weight to feelings and concepts — and in doing so, offers physique to the invisible traces that join us.

“We’re a lot extra related than we’re completely different,” she mentioned.

Behind Your Eyelid” is displaying at JC Up to date at Tai Kwun, Hong Kong, till Nov. 27, 2022.

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