Swiss-born Pipilotti Rist is a multimedia, performance, and video artist. She first worked with pop music but then decided to transfer from performance to video work. Her immersive video installations mix musical and visual elements in seductive multimedia works with images that are computer manipulated.
Rist was born Elisabeth Charlotte Rist. Pipilotti was a nickname inspired by Pippi Longstocking, the Swedish children’s book character. She studied at the College of Applied Art in Vienna between 1982 and 1986 and was intrigued by experimental cinema. She attended the School of Design in Basel, Switzerland and studied video and audio production. From 1988-1994, she became a member of the band, “Les Reines Prochaines,” a feminist-punk-cabaret act. In 1997, she was appointed Artistic Director of the Swiss National Exhibition Expo.
Rist’s video art is created with filters, overlays, and various special effects to make surreal images that are distorted, washed out, faded, or bleached by the sun. Her works are often accompanied by music or pulsing soundtracks. She loves the power of color and its effect on the senses. “In the Western world, color is underestimated.” Her videos blend the human body and landscape in deeply saturated palettes of vivid blues, greens, and reds. Sometimes actual blood appears in her work. She often uses screens that are up to twenty-five feet tall which surround viewers who are able to lounge on couches or beds.
Rist is known in pop culture as the source for Beyonce’s 2016 music video, “Hold Up,” where the singer, wearing a billowing yellow dress, is smashing car windows with a baseball bat. The visual here resembled Rist’s 1997 “Ever Is Over All,” where a woman, wearing a blue dress and red shoes, is smashing car windows with a large metallic flower. A passing policeman gives her a happy smile.
Rist has been awarded various prizes, including the Premio 2000 at the 1997 Venice Biennale and an award for achievement in the field of multimedia in 2004. In 2019, Rist was one of seven artists who joined Apple’s [AR]T initiative, curated by the New Museum, to create Augmented Reality works for Apple.
Rist took part in the 1999 Venice Biennale. Her multicolored light work was shown in Arles, France at Luma Arles, an arts complex built on a 15-acre plot known as the Parc des Ateliers.
Los Angeles’s Museum of Contemporary Art’s first special exhibition of Rist, originally slated for 2020, has recently opened in September 2021. It is showing at MOCA’s Geffen Contemporary satellite space in downtown L.A. and is her first survey on the West Coast. It features sculptures and video installations, one of which is the “Pixel Forest Transformer.” This is a room filled with strings of flickering LED lights, designed by Rist, that hang down from the ceiling. Walking in this immersive art installation feels as if one is inside a video screen, surrounded by digital pixels.
New York City’s Museum of Modern Art has in its permanent collection her 1997 two-screen video installation, “Ever is Over All” as well as her 2008-2009 immersive video installation, “Pour Your Body Out,” with circular cushions for people to use while watching her work. Her work is also held in the permanent collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Utrecht Central Museum, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, and the Guggenheim Museum.