this issue contains
>> Pipilotti Rist in Japan
>> Press on Jeff Wall's show "Exposure"

>> archive

 
Space Invader
Pipilotti Rist's first Solo Show in Japan



In Europe, she has long been considered one of the most important figures of contemporary art. But she's only now opened her first solo show in Japan. "Karakara," her exhibition at the Hara Museum in Tokyo, is sponsored by Deutsche Bank. C. Mark Smith wonders whether the Japanese are ready for Rist's unique digital cosmos.

Upon entering the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, housed in a palatial home that once belonged to the grandparents of the museum’s director, a group of people could be seen gathering outside the entrance of the room containing A la belle etoile (Under The Sky) (2007). They seemed hesitant to enter the room, as it meant entering the work, which was projected onto the floor. It was only after a few people took the first step, encouraged by a helpful guide, that people began milling about, physically interacting with Pipilotti Rist’s gravity-defying film.




Pipilotti Rist, A la belle etoile (Under The Sky), (2007), installation viewHara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokio
Photo Hirotaka Yonekura, Courtesy Hara Museum of Contemporary Art



"A la belle etoile deals with up and down, as we are normally reduced to a vertical perception of electronic media. I like to play with the physical situation of people visiting the museum," the Swiss artist says. "This room lent itself to addressing the ceiling or the ground. The vestibule space at the Hara Museum reminds me of a church, the way the height of the architectural space suggests that the spirit is more important than the sinful body—this whole Christian-Jewish-Muslim idea of dividing the body and spirit. What interested me with this work was that the picture merges with your legs, that it’s not really doing anything to the room itself. You just slip into something that’s already there." The Hara’s vestibule offers another perspective for viewing A la belle etoile: a balcony accessible from the second floor allows visitors to peer down at the artwork and get a clearer view of the slowly spinning images of people playing in a park, skyscrapers, and abstractions of everyday objects.





Pipilotti Rist, Gina´s mobile, (2007),
installation view Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokio
Photo Hirotaka Yonekura, Courtesy Hara Museum of Contemporary Art





Another of Rist’s abstractions of an everyday object can be found in Gina’s mobile (2007), a small piece perched at the top of a staircase – easy to overlook among the larger installations surrounding it. It consists of a stick with a golden ball on one end and a screen on the other."It shows five different clips of a vulva." A beautifully pure-looking pink, the subject of the film looks almost unreal, as if it had been made in a special-effects lab. Some visitors looked at it for a while and then wandered off without much comment. Another couple approached it, and then, realizing what it was, turned around and headed off in a different direction. Even the museum’s description of the work is intentionally cryptic: "In a world of taboos, this work focuses on taboos related to skin."


Pipilotti Rist, Deine Raumkapsel (Your Space-Capsule), 2006,
audio video installation, Photo by Barbara Gerny
Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth Zürich London


"For a long time, I’ve been interested in why we place so many different values on different parts of the body. It’s a sensitive area, sensitive emotionally as well, it’s taboo. In a psychological sense, we haven’t come to terms with it. I like to look at it as though it were another species. There are probably many reasons why we place such significance on such a small section of skin. Also, watching ourselves so closely, we see that we are ephemeral. You can look at it coolly from a medical standpoint, but from the cultural side, it’s like, ‘woooh!’"



Pipilotti Rist, Ever Is Over All (1997),
installation view Courtesy Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokio
Photo Hirotaka Yonekura, Courtesy Hara Museum of Contemporary Art

The screen and the golden ball appear to represent different parts of the vagina. "In Japanese," Rist explains, "they call the testicles kintama - ‘golden balls’. So they thought, ‘Ah, you’re speaking of men’s balls!’ So, how we look at something is closely linked with our cultural education. It was interesting for me to show in Japan, but I’m aware that many things mean something different here. I’ve seen this happen in other countries, but the jump to Japan — or to Far East Asia — was the biggest. I’ve only shown in Japan, Korea, and Shanghai, and there were some big distances to deal with. But from another perspective, the works take on different meanings as they do with every visitor. When Ever Is Over All was first shown in Venice, a Japanese woman asked me, ‘Do you really want everybody going around smashing cars?’ I don’t know if this was a personal or cultural concern."



Pipilotti Rist, Das Zimmer (The Room) (1994/2007),
installation view Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokio
Photo Hirotaka Yonekura, Courtesy Hara Museum of Contemporary Art

Ever Is Over All (1997) and Das Zimmer (The Room) (1994/2007) may be the highlights of the show, as they generated the most interest. In a room toward the back of the V-shaped building, museum-goers trickled in to view images of tropical flowers and a carefree woman smashing car windows with one of these flowers. Though nobody watching the artwork seemed to be concerned about public safety, the audience stood back against the wall, perhaps fearful of invading the "sacred space" of the art.



Pipilotti Rist, Closet Circuit, 2000,
installation view Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokio
Photo Hirotaka Yonekura, Courtesy Hara Museum of Contemporary Art


[1] [2]