The tranquil “pixel forest” by artist Pipilotti Rist examines the complexity of our digital life



The tranquil “pixel forest” by artist Pipilotti Rist examines the complexity of our digital life

There is a brand-new haven from the busy metropolis in a dim chamber in the center of Hong Kong. Although it doesn’t resemble the lush vegetation that covers nearby mountains, it is a forest.

This one radiates. A 3,000 LED light “pixel forest” blinks red, blue, green, yellow, and pink in time with the music hanging from plastic wires that resemble vines. The sparkling lake created by the glossy black floor’s reflection of each rough, glittering crystal seems to go on forever.

Pipilotti Rist, a multimedia artist, was motivated by her use of virtual reality goggles to create an immersive piece of art. The 60-year-old “felt lonely,” she recounted, even though she claimed to be able to sense the space surrounding her.

“Sometimes it’s just an illusion. People assume they are in constant communication, but in reality, being in person is quite different, “said Rist.

“Behind Your Eyelid,” her first solo show in Hong Kong, celebrates three decades of work at the JC Contemporary gallery; the installation is one of nearly 50 of her pieces on display. Rist also considers the barriers between us and the fronts we need to break through to connect.

The tranquil "pixel forest" by artist Pipilotti Rist examines the complexity of our digital life


light from unexpected sources

Rist, born in 1962 in Grabs, Switzerland, has been a mainstay of the visual arts scene since the 1980s. But in 2016, when it was claimed that Beyoncé’s music video “Hold Up” had drawn influence from the work “Ever is Over All,” she suddenly became well-known.

Beyoncé never openly acknowledged the artist’s 1997 piece, which shows a carefree Rist bouncing along a street while swinging a long-stemmed red flower, as an influence.

But the picture was instantly recognizable: a lady skipping carelessly down a street lined with cars, baseball bat in hand, breaking windows.

Rist, who collaborates with a group of audio, light, and video professionals to make her art, was touched by the apparent nod.

She remarked, “I thought it was wonderful that individuals who may never visit art galleries suddenly received the reference to a video artist. “Perhaps they were unaware that (‘Ever is Over All’) existed.”

According to Rist, the baseball bat added a “certain ferocity” to the tableau. At the same time, her flower-turned-weapon was a more lighthearted allusion to female power and independence, a recurring motif in her work.

Pipilotti Rist even said that she was drawn to video art because “it wasn’t taken by males” as the reason for her choice of media. Men and women both appear in her videos, although the former predominates.

However, she objects to the notion that she prefers to profile females: “We view (women) as an exception because of the way the power system is set up. I constantly tried to tell myself, “No, that’s the human.”

A Pop-Art take on Greek and Roman sculptures may be seen in her Hong Kong exhibition, where images of female torsos are hanging from the ceiling.

One of them is a rigid yellow bathing suit with a little television positioned in the hollowed-out crotch from the ’90s, while the other has light coming out of the places where the legs ought to be.

Rist often uses the idea of light emerging from the pelvis in his works. When we left our mothers, there is when we first glimpsed the light, she said.

Additionally, her sense of humor is evident in her underwear chandelier, which plays with the idea that “light” may refer to both something that shines and something that is lightweight.

Rist referred to the expression, “to not air one’s dirty laundry,” and what it indicates about keeping our gloom, our troubles, and our battles a secret as saying that “(the pelvis) is problematic for us, between shame and passion, smelling and delight.” “I wanted to lighten things up.”

Removing the layers

Rist exhibits her extraordinary variety over the course of the three-floor show: Complete immersive rooms are followed by single screens, while fresh, site-specific installations lie next to decades-old pieces.

In one place, a ping-pong-sized screen implanted in the floor plays the six-minute looping movie “Selbstlos in Lavabad” from 1994, which features a wailing lady imprisoned in a burning purgatory.

Many of the works date back many years, but according to exhibition director Tobias Berger, Rist’s work “constantly adapts to the newest technology.” He emphasizes “Sip My Ocean,” a two-channel movie that was created in 1996 and that, in its original configuration, would have fit on a considerably smaller projector.

The show was originally commissioned in 2019, before the epidemic, and it took two years to complete. Berger, though, thinks that Covid-19’s loneliness and fear have made the program — and its recurrent topic of human connection — more pertinent than ever.

Rist spent 21 days in quarantine last year in order to visit Hong Kong and gain a sense of the gallery space, experiencing solitude while preparing for the exhibition. Rist produced two brand-new pieces just for the exhibition.

A huge projection outside turns the gallery’s location, a former prison yard, into a “glade in the city” where Rist hopes people would congregate and interact in person. The exhibition’s main metaphor—membranes—is tied together by the new “Big Skin” installation within.

A blend of real footage and animations are used to create video projections that show galaxies and natural landscapes while hanging semi-translucent white “skins” from the ceiling.

They reflect and absorb light like floating clouds, casting unsettling shadows even as they display peaceful images of fall foliage.

Since none of Rist’s surrealist artwork is computer-generated, authenticity is a key component of its allure for Berger. There’s nothing artificial, everything is real, and I think that’s what the appeal is, why people are so drawn to her work, he added.

The last space, “The Apartment,” makes a previous prisoner’s cell seem like a house: A picture by a local artist, as well as a smattering of quaint objects, many of which are from Hong Kong, surround a dining table and chairs, a sofa and sideboard, and a day bed. However, the arrangement is more unsettling than familiar as projections roam across the room like ghosts.


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