Pipilotti Rist at the Hayward

Filed in Reviews by on September 22, 2011

Pipilotti Rist: Eyeball Massage

Hayward Gallery

20 September 2011 to 8 January 2012


My first inkling that the show was going to be a little different was the ticket sales man. On buying my ticket he told me I was allowed to take photos. This never happens. Most often the click of a camera beckons an invigilator who tirelessly repeats there is no photography allowed. Eyeball Massage however, was not the usual white box affair.

Initially confronted by an underwear chandelier; upon which a colourful video beamed, it proved an apt introduction to Rist’s work. Her practice is ground in video, and has from the eighties created multiple works that seek to explore the human body without inhibition. It is a medium that she has investigated by means of abstracting, changing speeds, colours and scale. Video is not something that has to be projected onto a blank screen, but, as demonstrated, a tiny video projected onto an architectural model, a massive expanse of a wall or even within a sculpture through which you pop your head through and share an intimate viewing experience with strangers. She endeavours to break some of the preconceived notions of behaviour within a gallery. No more standing back from a white wall to contemplate, but lying down on cushions to absorb whimsical colours and fuzzy symmetry, kneeling down to become lost in a small video that is enclosed by one of much larger stature, as she dwells soberly on the nature of relationships, carrying me along for the journey of her car journey as the scenery passes her by.

From philosophical musings on relationships, the content of the videos moved to explorations of the body, of nature. Searching for videos became like a game, an intrigue. An empty seat offers the sitter a chance to become a projection surface. I heard rumours of a video in the ladies toilet but I was obviously in the wrong cubicle. Material strips hang down and project images of the inner body, a baby’s cot plays host to a video inside a massively scaled up virus sculpture. The video explores sex. Yet, at no point is the content ever sordid, only ever a sensual exploration of the female and male form. The camera moves down the male’s torso to reveal underwear made from grass. Not entirely romantic but a fun exploration of something that perhaps is taken too seriously, funny sexual encounters perhaps rendered obsolete by its glorification within film.

The novelty of the experience can arguably detract from the content of the thirty or so works on show, yet there are so many opportunities to stop and soak up a visual world that List has created, one with fantastical painterly colour changes to close ups of the digestive tract that make you apprehend the world in a way like never before. Some of the work does glorify the female, a three-screen piece entitled, ‘Blood Room’ explores menstruation, each screen awash with a bright red sea that transforms into trippy colours. It celebrates the capabilities of the female body, yet it is not in a hard-hitting way that makes you feel uncomfortable when viewing or provokes guilt over your own weakened feminist resolve.

One of List’s intentions in showing her work is to disrupt the viewing rituals that pervade the gallery space. This is entirely successful, though it seems to create an environment where you find yourself looking at the other visitors just as much as the videos. Kneeling, lying, crouching, peering over boxes, into watering cans, walking through sheets of material. It does feel like a bit of a playground at times, full of new discoveries, but it does, as intended, seem to force you to view things differently, gauging awareness of your own body in the process as it moves to the demands of the installation.


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Ann-Marie Rayney

About the Author ()

Ann-Marie Rayney is a printmaker based in London. Recently graduated from Goldsmiths with a Fine Art and Art History degree, she will most likely be found exploring London's cultural offerings or covered in ink at Sonsoles Print Studio in Peckham. To see some of her work, have a sneaky peak at her website here. http://cargocollective.com/annmarierayney

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