Hilf mir ehrlich zu sein
Courtesy Hauser & Wirth, Zürich London
°1962, Rheintal (CH)
lives in Zürich and Neuenburg (Neuchâtel)
Charlotte ‘Pipilotti’ Rist is generous. She is completely dedicated to her work and preferably to more than work at the same time. This explains her love for video art, since the eighties. In video, elements of different origin can be brought together, coming from different media and from a variety of themes and emotions. She has compared videos to handbags: “There is room in them for everything: painting, technology, language, music, movement, lousy flowing pictures, poetry, commotion, premonitions of death, sex and friendliness.”
Rist often adds a large amount of painting into her work: powerful and varied colouring, different layers of colour, references to the traditional location of a painting, as a flat surface on a wall. “I often say that video is like a painting on glass that moves, because video also has a rough, imperfect quality that looks like painting.” She is drawn to painting because it can be very expressive and raw and therefore is much more closer to the ‘truth’ than a perfectly shaped and clean representation.
So don’t expect a technically well polished finish in her work. She is aware that the technology of video has long been surpassed by music videos, television commercials and special effects. The only way a video artist can stand out is by an uncompromising attitude. No concessions to the content nor the composition. In her case this means no attempts at copying reality, but to work from within the own inner world of video.
This appears to be a very rich world. Not only on a pictorial basis, but also spatial. Rist proves that video can function as a basic element to create or re-create a whole new environment. She makes ensembles of different projections and monitors, she frames the videos with furniture or other interior elements, makes them into objects, projects them onto walls and on the floor. She has even made the spectator peep through a hole in the floor to discover how a small Pipilotti is threatened by flames and calls for help (Selbstlos im Lavabad, 1994).
Just like a painter, there is a lot of physicality in her work. She makes her own footage in which she is often the subject, dancing, swimming, struggling, colourfully dressed or stark naked, in a setting or in big close-ups. Because of this, she often leans towards performance art. For example when she smudges her painted lips against a window and creates weird transformations. This was shown on a large screen on Times Square in New York (Open my Glade, 2000) and now returns on a smaller scale, in a series of images at Contour 2005 (Hilf mir ehrlich zu sein).
Rist is a striking and self-conscious woman. Her work can also be interpreted as a feminist statement. It shows us how feminism has entered a new fase in the visual arts: it is no longer an imposed message, but it is fully incorporated.