A powerful body of work: Three great video works by artist Pipilotti Rist

Author’s Note: I’m trying something a bit different today 😉

I first came in contact with Pipilotti’s works through my father who had a CD of her band ‘Les Reines Prochaines’. Now years later her work (especially her video works) still fascinates me. For that reason I picked out three video works by Pipilotti which I want to talk about more in detail, what I think about them and why in my opinion Pipilotti’s work is still very relevant today. 

1.)  Ever is over all 

The video work shows a woman (Pipilotti herself) which happily smiling walks down the sidewalk, with a big red flower in her hands. The speed of the video is slowed down, which causes an enjoyable calm and conveys the feeling of moving around in a dream. Accompanying the video is the humming of a woman and the chirping of birds. Suddenly, out of an inexplainable impulse, the woman smashes the window of a car parking beside the sidewalk with her flower. In that moment the humming changes into the sound of a distorted piano mixed with electronic beats. After that she continues her walk on the sidewalk and smashes more car windows of cars parking along the sidewalk. From behind her a policewoman comes into the frame and while passing her, smiles at her and (almost approving) nods to her and salutes. Also the other people passing by don’t seem impressed by the woman’s behaviour in any way. The woman proceeds on her way and carries on smashing car windows, of which every shattering window disrupts the beat with a loud crack. The whole video is kept in saturated colours.

What I feel when watching this video is empowerment. The empowerment to show rage and anger as a woman, since women societally are expected to always be nice, sweet, polite, caring and not show any anger or dissatisfaction. Which is what could be expressed by Pipilotti with her attitude in the video. Her acting being joyous while also smashing the windows and everyone of the pedestrians not caring that she does so (and the policewoman even greeting her happily), is pointing to the fact that female rage often is not taken seriously, since anything “female” is seen as weaker.

With every hit and breaking window it feels like breaking these barriers/restrictions/expectations society has put up for women. It feels freeing in a way. To really take up space which is us too often not granted and show all your feelings raw and honest. 

2.) Sip my Ocean

This video work offers the view of an idyllic underwater world. Different objects are slowly sinking one after the other, through the water down to the sea bed. The sequences of the sinking objects switch back and forth with sequences of a close-up of a woman floating, diving and swimming underwater. The pace of this work is again slowed down and gives you the feeling of floating in a dream. The colours are very intense and it is accompanied by the cover of the song ‘Wicked Game’ by Chris Isaak, sung by Pipilotti.

This work really touches me. The almost dreamlike video in combination with the cover of the song ‘Wicked Game’ has something very nostalgic and a bit melancholic to it. It’s like watching a recording of a memories you made, memories of a good time which you are looking back upon now. It has something very soft and fragile to it, like if you were dreaming and open your eyes now, the bubble would burst and the memories are gone. At the same time it is very powerful. The power that lies in the total vulnerability of opening up completely and letting people in and in the passages in ‘Wicked Game’ which she screamed, also tackling through that again the topic of female empowerment. 

3.) I’m not the girl who misses much 

This video shows a woman (again Pipilotti herself) in a black dress in an empty room, starting with her in front of one of the room’s white walls. She then starts dancing around in the room manically while singing repeatedly ‘I’m not the girl who misses much’ (an adapted line from the song ‘Happiness is a Warm Gun’ by the Beatles). Her voice is manipulated, same as the speed of the video, causing the voice to change between being high-pitched (almost child-like) and deep and a bit darker and the video changing between being speed up and slowed down. The colour balance of the video is also modified, so some parts of the video seem more reddish others more bluish. After some time the video becomes distorted with freeze frames creating the image of a cadence of a heart monitor. This video gives of a somehow creepy feeling but at the same time really fascinates me. Although it’s just the same sentence over and over again, it draws you in, further and further, which has an almost hypnotic quality to it. In the unsettling and mysterious though lies its power. The deconstructing of a traditional gender role, what a woman is expected to be like (kind of like a witch which is also not fitting in the traditional role of a woman, powerful and nowadays often used as a figure for empowerment in feminist movements). 

Pipilotti’s work has a timeless quality to it. The effects used to alter the video still are very effective today. The topics and problems she addresses in her videos are still issues which we have to deal with today. Women’s rights issues are still as important today as ever, reaching their extremes in issues like the new abortion regulations in the US last year or the women led revolution in Iran at the moment. But it’s also important in day to day experiences like gender roles, catcalling, sexual harassment and abuse, etc. 
Pipilotti’s work makes you think, to scrutinize your beliefs, calls attention to important topics but with a lot of feeling, at times even humor and through bright and colourful worlds. 
It is honest, powerful but vulnerable at the same time. It touches you straight to the heart. And most importantly, it empowers. It empowers to stand up for yourself, to break out of the roles and expectations others (or society) imposed on you and to live your life how you want to. 

Links to the video works:

1) Ever is over all: https://youtu.be/-gd06ukX-rU

2) Sip my Ocean: https://youtu.be/eLPPJsQliD4 (there only is a view from an installation she did at the Museum of Contemporary art Chicago available in which she used the video work and not only of the video work itself, but I think this works well too to get an insight into the work).
Cover ‘Wicked Game’: https://youtu.be/7daW5KQZ8LE

3) I’m not the girl who misses much: https://youtu.be/hjvWXiUp1hI

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published