BY Laurie Attias in Reviews | 11 NOV 99
Featured in
Issue 49

Pipilotti Rist

BY Laurie Attias in Reviews | 11 NOV 99

A naked man lingers along a highway, a pair of young girls frolic by the ocean and flames rise up from dinner plates at a family meal. At once surreal and banal, these images float through the crowded living room that forms the centrepiece of Pipilotti Rist's lyrical 'Remake of the Weekend (French)', (1999), which recreates the apartment - from back garden to yoga room - of fictitious tenant Himalaya Goldstein. But although the installation revolves around the idea of the home, it turns it into something universal, multicultural and in a sense anonymous - part of the global village.

The installation is an expanded, reworked version of a show previously seen in Zurich, Berlin and Vienna. Rist's trembling voice - in English, German and French - permeates the space; international magazines and books - from British to Japanese - are piled on the floor; the shelves are full of 60s American kitsch; foil packages of Chinese noodles and chopsticks sit on a table. The show is permeated with a kind of hip, fashion-victim, Fiorucci-style aesthetic.

In a sense, the work is an exercise in narcissism - Goldstein is obviously meant to represent Rist, whose naked body and voice are omnipresent, and the videos, playing to the ubiquitous background music look like 'Rist's greatest hits'. Ever is Over All (1997) - in which a young woman, humming sweetly, joyfully swings a phallic-looking flower and smashes the windows of parked cars - plays in the garage; projected in the kitchen, on a clinical-looking set of oversize white cabinets, is Rist's sensual, slow-motion Regenfrau (I am called a Plant) (1998), which shows the artist, with her shocking-pink hair, lying naked on the rain-soaked earth.

The result is inventive, pleasing and poetic, but as insubstantial and quickly forgotten as an uneventful weekend. Paradoxically, the strength of Rist's work lies in its childlike playfulness and evocation of the fragile and short-lived - like her machine, for example, that produced giant, iridescent soap bubbles. This installation opens with a back garden which consists of a large mound of sand, suggesting sandcastles that can easily disintegrate and wash away. A makeshift tent, the kind a young boy might fashion from Indian blankets, tree branches and discarded bed sheets, implies a childlike and transient freedom and creativity.

Bathed in a warm, orange light, the living room is a jumble of flea-market paraphernalia, kitschy bric-a-brac and eclectic furniture. The colour evokes blood and infrared and make the invisible visible. Projected onto, inside and through the furniture - illuminating the label of a Scotch bottle on the bar, the side of a coffee table, a painting, a lampshade - are a dozen of Rist's video clips which look like luminous layers of diaphanous fabric floating around the space. Despite the intense material clutter, the room is as much a psychological space as a physical one. The videos' slow, uneven pacing is echoed in the rambling movements of the visitors. The unrelated fragments, combined with the random, informal arrangement of the furniture, inspire imaginative reverie.

Rist uses video like a virtuoso, not ironically, not subversively, but exploiting the medium's most beautiful and expressive components. Certain shots are breathtaking. Sensual, luminous and drenched in lush, distorted colour, she gracefully intertwines figurative and abstract elements until they dance a kind of ballet.

While the living room is by far the richest and most complex part of 'Remake of the Weekend', the most convincing and moving area is that of the bedroom, Extremitaten (wiech, wiech) (Extremities, gentle, gentle) (1999). The darkened space is illuminated by a random constellation of lopped-off human organs - breasts, penises, ears, noses - which float by, one by one, like planets. They seem as fragile as chimeras, while Rist chants monotonously in the background 'You are a molecule... I am a mammal...You are nothing, the king of nothing'. The room is a place of sex and confronting taboos, but also makes palpable our desire and our imperfections. Rist's work is at its most powerful when she touches on human fragility, mixing joy with the bittersweet.