Sunday, October 2, 2011


A few days ago I stopped by the Hayward Gallery in the Southbank Centre to see the new Pipilotti Rist (Swiss, b. 1962) retrospective that opened September 28. Wow. I watched a video installation of hers at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago last month, and really enjoyed the purposeful plush carpeting, bean bag chairs, and low lighting that were part of the experience of her video work. That conceit was used again a number of times in Rist's installations at the Hayward Gallery (which, by the way, managed to make very good use of the space, with tiny cubbyholes to discover and videos projected in very unlikely places: a stall in the women's restroom and the inside of a conch shell). Rist provided cushions (some as stuffed shirts and pants meant to look like cartoonish disembodied people) that forced you down on the floor and on a new visual plane in order to experience and visually interact with the viewers around you. Body (especially the female body) and forcing the viewer to become conscious of body in space and in relation to a projected image plays a huge role in her work. There are lovely video glitches, too, and a use of the machine in unexpected and often startlingly or strangely familiar ways.

(Apparently she's also made a feature-length film, Pepperminta, which looks completely and insanely wonderful). She's represented by Luhring Augustine in New York, and Hauser & Wirth internationally.

Today I've been reading an essay by T. J. Clark today, Modernism, Postmodernism, and Steam (published in October, Vol. 100, Obsolescence, Spring 2002, pp.154-174), in which Clark brought up Tony Oursler (b. 1957, American) and his Robert Morris-influenced projections of faces onto steam (and trees, apparently). The visual connection to Ristprojections into darknessis clearly there in my mind, and both are equally bizarre image-makers.

Here are some excerpts from Clark's essay that I found to be particularly interesting:

"[...] ghosts that the internet itself dreams up" (156)

"a new form of visuality spreading like a virus through the culture at large — a new machinery of visualization, a tipping of the social balance from a previous regime of the word to a present regime of the image" (161)

"Modernism's motto was the great phrase from the young Marx's critique of Hegel: Modernists believed it was necessary for any art, any Realism, to take the forms of the present deeply inside itself, at the risk of mimicry, almost ventriloquism; but that out of that might come the possibility of critique, of true destabilization — they would 'teach the petrified forms how to dance by singing them their own song.'" (161) [Clark quoting Marx at the end]

"[...] the two great principles that gave modernity its character — on the one hand the reality of the machine's regularity and uniformity, on the other that of a profound social randomness and evacuation. You could say of the purest products of modernism [...] that in them an excess of order interacts with an excess of contingency." (164)

On Malevich's Peasant in the Fields (c. 1928-32), there is "the will to put the fragments back into some sort of order" (172).

"Our present fictions of the now" just happen to be "virtuality and visuality" (174).

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