Curator's Corner

Something Swiss This Way Comes

By Karl Cole, posted on Aug 3, 2020

The first of August, this past Saturday, is Switzerland's "Independence Day," so I’m presenting a Swiss installation artist: Pipilotti Rist. The typical luxuriant colors of her videos often remind me of painting.

Pipilotti Rist (born 1962, Switzerland), Pour Your Body Out (7354 Cubic Meters), 2008.
Pipilotti Rist (born 1962, Switzerland), Pour Your Body Out (7354 Cubic Meters), 2008. Multichannel video (color, sound), projector enclosures, circular seating and carpet, variable dimensions. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2020 Pipilotti Rist. (MOMA-P4421)


Rist's installations combine fantasy with reality in sometimes shocking ways. The Museum of Modern Art commissioned Pour Your Body Out (7354 Cubic Meters) for their more than 20,000 square foot (7354 cubic meters) Marron Atrium. In the installation, the viewer is encouraged to understand themselves as part of the larger environment through slow-motion imagery of a person and a pig placed within inviting natural locations. Projecting video onto the walls of the atrium, Rist recreates the inner workings of the mind, as well as transforming the large physical space of the atrium with light and color.

In addition to the projected images, the atrium was transformed with long curtains to darken the interior, colorful textured carpet, and an eye-shaped seating area. Speakers in the seat filled the space with music by Anders Guggisberg (born 1966, Switzerland), with whom Rist has collaborated since 1995. The viewers were invited to interact with this space by feeling the carpet on their bare feet, sitting on the eye sofa, and singing or dancing at will.1


Pipilotti Rist, Ever Is Over All, 1997.
Pipilotti Rist, Ever Is Over All, 1997. Video installation of two overlapping projections, color and sound, dimensions variable. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2020 Pipilotti Rist.


Ever Is Over All was one of Rist’s first large-scale installations, placing imagery of women, augmented nature, and everyday life with the dimensions of the gallery space. The theme, one that she frequently visits in her work, is that of the contrast of nature (equated with the feminine) with violence and the urban world, in this case, a woman carrying a tall, tropical flower shatters the window of a car in a fit of magic realism. Rather than simply showing destruction, Rist creates a moment of catharsis. The work, shot in a single take using everyday video cameras, takes advantage of the pixels and noise of the film to create a painterly effect. Accompanied by evocative music (again by Guggisberg), the installation consists of two overlapping video projections, both shown in slow motion.

Born in Grabs, Switzerland, Rist began making Super 8 films while studying commercial art, illustration, and photography at the College of Applied Arts in Vienna. She also studied video at the School of Design in Basel, Switzerland. From her earliest videos in the 1980s, Rist’s work has been concerned with gender issues, sexuality, and provocative filming of the human, usually female, body. 

Since the 1990s, her films have been renowned for bridging the gap between fine art and popular culture, exploring the contradictions and angst of contemporary society. With her work Sip My Ocean (1996), she was one of the first film artists whose works transcended the monitor onto the surrounding architecture of the exhibition space, creating immersive experiences for viewers. Her images, often a merging of nature with technology, are famous for her incorporation of rich color.


1. Information adapted from MOMA’s press release. PIPILOTTI RIST CREATES A MONUMENTAL SITE-SPECIFIC INSTALLATION USING VIDEO, SOUND, AND SCULPTURAL ELEMENTS: MoMA’s Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium Immersed in Moving Images for the First Time, 2008. 


Correlations to Davis programs: The Visual Experience 4E: 9.4, 11.5; Discovering Art History 4E: 17.6