Coles, Alex, Art Monthly
Hauser & Wirth Zurich 29 August to 17 October
The hyper-sensual fantasy so often conveyed by Pipilotti Rist's installations--reaching their zenith in the colossal MoMA installation earlier this year--was largely absent from this exhibition, which was actually a blessing since it enabled the quieter and often overlooked aspects of her oeuvre to come forward.
Despite the shift in register, the exhibition was conceived as one large installation as is Rist's custom. Wallpaper saturated with images culled from her first feature-length film Pepperminta (to be launched at this year's Venice Film Festival) hugged the walls with the expectation that it would transform the space into a continuous environment of visual entertainment. This it didn't do. Instead, the most successful shards of the installation were left to speak for themselves. The work could perhaps have suffered because of this, but instead it sparkled.
The exhibition consisted of four different formats of artwork: a large interactive installation, a number of screen images, two small still lifes and a series of small printed paintings. The interactive work was undoubtedly intended as the centrepiece of the exhibition. Long curtains fabricated from a series of smaller sheets of carefully stitched together fabric were hung limply around a circular area of plush purple carpet. Above, two revolving lights moved in time with a speed setting that could be altered according to the mood and rhythm of the music selected. Rather than bathe viewers in ambrosial colour and tickle them with seductive shapes and sounds, the installation was only awakened when viewers followed the artist's set instruction: to select their own music and dance. Being of a rather conservative persuasion this critic opted out. Fortunately, Rist turned a possible negative into a positive: failure to become part of this particular work was precisely what directed attention onto the other, quieter items included in the exhibition.
This started with the small still lifes. The first one was perched on a bookshelf, replete with a miniature table and chairs, fragments of glass, bracelets and a plastic model of a human heart. …