Published by this is tomorrow on December 22, 2014.
Pipilotti Rist occupies a peculiar position in the art world; although an undisputed star, she is too readily dismissed as simply ‘quirky.’ The exhibition of her recent work at Hauser & Wirth, however, couldn’t possibly leave a shred of doubt regarding not only her immense skill and pioneering approach to video art, but also the radical nature of her vision. The titular claim, that ‘Worry Will Vanish,’ is a bold one (a promise that becomes all the more daring when applied to a Saville Row gallery, mere meters from the festive mire of Regent Street in December) – but sure enough, one is about to be worlds away.
The reception area contains three smaller ‘video objects,’ which act as an introduction to the lexicon of images currently populating Rist’s work. With ‘Stone Skyscraper,’ she projects swirling, technicolour images of plant stems and coral reefs onto a miniaturized modernist tower. In ‘Gigantic Pear Log,’ a small glass sphere is nestled into bark, housing a woman with flowing hair joyfully flailing as she falls through the universe. The same figure appears again in ‘Overlapping Shadow Oversleeping,’ this time entangled in kaleidoscopic symmetry with white lilies projected onto a potted plant.
Passing behind an imposing floor to ceiling curtain and into the main installation, the bonds of time and gravity seem to give way. The room is awash in an array forest sounds, intimate digital buzzes, softly electrified whispers, and the strumming of an acoustic guitar. The public bask in the spectacular light of ‘Worry of Will Vanish’, reclining in a constellation of duvets on the floor. The massive two-channel projection is a spiralling montage that shifts seamlessly from the microscopic to the cosmic, from droplets of water on spider webs to vast red seas. Rist presents the natural world in a pallet of acid blues and neon greens – perhaps an affectionate holdover from the glitchy spectrum of her early work in analogue video – as she creates unexpected visual affinities between flowers and fleshy polyps, freckles and stardust.
The most striking quality of Rist’s work is perhaps the balance it strikes between the ethereal and the visceral; it is visually spectacular and still intensely tactile. The viewer’s mystifying perspective is one of being out of body, yet simultaneously deep inside oneself. In some instances, it is as if the camera is retreating as we gaze on the psychedelic landscape through nostrils and a mouth as well as eye sockets. The camera slips down our throat and into the unknown interior, encountering alien flesh forms and coursing through luminous veins. Rist’s work expresses such sincere pleasure in these deeply sensitive explorations of the physical matter of life – such as the bending spines of grass or the folds of a glistening palm that seems to kiss itself though subtle flexing. She applies this sensuous attentiveness far outside normative sexuality, or even polymorphous perversity; we, the viewers, alongside lichen, coral, and dew, are all woven into this boundless erogenous sphere.