Pipilotti Rist and Her Pixelated Life


Lately, there has been a lot of pictures floating around the internet of these jagged jellyfish-like, lantern looking balls lighting up fluorescent colors of purple and blue in a huge room. You may or may not know that it was part of an exhibition called Pixel Forest by multimedia artist Pipilotti Rist. Although her work may be new to many, she’s been around for a while and has influenced many artists and their work. Pipilotti is just as vivid and never aging as her exhibited work and dares you to interact with her mind as well.


Pipilotti Rist, who coined her name from her childhood hero Pipi Longstocking, is a Switzerland based artist that thrives in the world of video art. She’s known for her intentional provocative, penetrating, emotion provoking, dreamy, comical, and maybe sometimes a bit perverse, composed media work. She’s achieved much being featured all around the world, including having month-long installations in museums such as the MoMa and Hauser & Wirth. Her main inspiration and influence for her work is legendary multimedia artist, Nam June Paik, which you can see throughout her work. Pipilotti has studied photography, graphic design and illustration at University of Applied Arts in Vienna and went back to school to study video with iconic, contemporary artist Paul McCarthy.


*Video is NSFW* 

 The full original video uploaded onto Youtube by Pipilotti had the audio stripped form it due to copyright issues. 

Pipilotti’s very first video, “I’m Not The Girl Who Misses Much,” was filmed by McCarthy in 1986. The five minute long free, expressive video was recorded using a Super 8mm camera, a popular technology at the time. In the video, Pipilotti is the center of attention while wearing a loose dress, dancing around, and  singing the titled phrase that was originally a part of John Lennon’s and the Beatles “Happiness is a Warm Gun.” The techniques used in this video, color saturations, effects of picture and manipulation of audio, were subtle yet “advanced” for the 80’s in the video art world. There were controversies and speculation that Pipilotti was trying to mock MTV. Being from Switzerland, she had no idea that MTV existed at that time.

Pipilotti’s creative streak took off creating more videos with even more riskier content. Not only did she join a post-punk, pop group called Les Reines Prochaines (The Last Queens), but she also composed another video using their music called “Pipilotti’s Mistakes.” This piece of art came from a different angle. This video mostly contained Pipilotti herself falling out in the street in random places and constantly being dunked dramatically in a pool. She used more of a narrative with the combination of dialogue in her language, multiple moving images, and coordination with sound and image. A new trademark was engraved on Pipilotti; She was comical but still there was a message to be heard whether you understood it or not.


Progressing into the 1990’s, Pipilotti’s imagination started to grow wilder than just making tapes for the Super 8mm camera. She began using projections with her works, like in her piece “Ever is Overall.” This piece is an installation using two overlapping image projections with no borders to allow smooth overlaying displayed on the cornered walls. The video contained Pipilotti herself skipping down the street happily yet maniacally smashing out windows with a flower. This is the art piece that inspired Beyonce’s “Hold Up” video. Pipilotti also designed the sound of this piece. It was first presented at the National Museum of Foreign Art in 1999 and in a few other museums over the years into the 2000’s.

In the 2000’s, Pipilotti become well known for her keen sense of humor, random content, and striking pieces. Because of her buzz, she was offered to present her work in one of the most visited and noticeable places in the United States, Times Square, New York City. Of course, she chose an original piece she’d composed with her smashing her face against a transparent plexi-glass called “Open My Glade/Be Nice To Me (Flatten).” It was 16-one minute clips of Pipi flattening her face on a plexi-glass smearing makeup and whatever else was on her face all over the glass. Each clip was separated by the showing of advertisements for businesses, such as car insurance companies, medications, and shows. A very interesting way to get your ads noticed.


Another work in this decade was “Himalaya Sister Living Room.” This is when Pipilotti began to do more than grasp attention with her work, she wanted to steal your attention away. This piece is essentially a room that she curated furniture from different generations and put them together to make what seem to look like a living room. She had pieces such as a couch, chairs, bookshelves and a lot of little trinkets scattered around the room. What was interesting about this piece was your interaction required to enjoy it. You had to walk around the room for the experience, to find little tiny projections of videos on places you would never expect, such as on the arm of the chair.

Evolving again, in 2009, Pipilotti released a self directed movie called PEPPERMINTA. PEPPERMINTA was about a young girl who was raised and taught by her grandmother to follow her own path of life and with that she felt obligated to do so, filling the dull grey world with color and texture with her pet snail, pet strawberry and two of her friends that join her on this journey. This was Pipilotti’s first full film and it was a selection at the 2009 Venice International Film Festival. During this time she also filmed a documentary of her everyday life called The Colour of Your Socks: A Year With Pipilotti Rist.


A photo posted by New Museum (@newmuseum) on

Today, Pippilotti Rist is clearly still very active with her array of art in Pixel Forest that just closed at the New Museum. But if you missed the show, don’t fret! She always comes back to steal your attention again! In 2012, Pipilotti also did a multi-room installation of projections to trigger different emotions, very similar to Pixel Forest. She lives to set up installations like Pixel Forest for people to actually submerge their selves into her work. Pipilotti states, “Having a video playing in a room is like having a room inside of another room.” She creates these pieces not just for people to become completely emerged but to also get lost in her work as well.

Check out a one on one interview in 2011 with Pipilotti Rist to get more into her mind below!

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