Pipilotti Rist : “Stay Stamina Stay” / Hauser & Wirth Somerset, Bruton (GB) / until february 22, 2015.

Hauser & Wirth presents two exhibitions of new video works by Pipilotti Rist, unveiled in parallel presentations across its London and Somerset galleries. A pioneer of video art, since the mid-eighties, Rist’s film installations take many guises. She has likened them in the past to handbags, “because there is room in them for everything: painting, technology, language, music, flowing pictures, poetry, commotion, premonitions of death, sex and friendliness.” From this versatile, capricious medium, Rist draws inner and outer worlds of kaleidoscopic colourful wonderment.

Hauser & Wirth Somerset will present two new rooms by Pipilotti Rist and an installation of “hiplights” in the farmyard. From summer 2012 through to summer 2013, Rist spent a sabbatical in Bruton, taking part in the first Hauser & Wirth Somerset artist residency. The experience had a profound impact upon her practice, producing new work in response to the surrounding landscape and the people she met.

Rist’s title “Stay Stamina Stay” plays on its double-meaning; referencing the stamen, (the pollen-producing reproductive organ of a flower) and also a “resistance to hardship.” Rist is concerned with our connection and interaction with the world around us; how we relate to our landscape, what preconceptions we carry from our respective cultures, and what those cultures have in common. Through her sensuously observed close-ups of the natural environment and the human body, Rist is interested in the ‘often unbelievable strength that humans are generating every day.

In the Rhoades Gallery, Mercy Garden (2014) is projected onto two of the walls; the luscious imagery in the installation comes mostly from footage the artist shot whilst living in Somerset. Slow motion close-ups play out in mirrored effect; fingers stroke stinging nettles, hands caress soft vivid petals, lips purse underwater and washing floats in the breeze, against a bright blue sky. The images are filtered and layered, set to a soundtrack of banjo folk music by Heinz Rohrer, inviting visual and tactile wonder and engaging all of the senses.

This sumptuous all-encompassing environment is designed for relaxation and meditation; the floor is partially carpeted in lush green with Somerset sheepskin rugs scattered across. Rist encourages her viewers to recline, inviting them to contemplate, and at the same time, to share a collective experience with their fellow spectators.

Rist is commonly known for creating works that are at once feminist and feminine, often exploring the female body; but in Mercy Garden, all of the characters are men (or boys) and the film celebrates a masculine strength, combined with fragility and tenderness. The main character, a young local farmer, is shown interacting with his natural environment. Visceral images of his hands running through soil and tending plants pose questions about life and death, and humans’ relationship to the natural world. Rist describes the work as “a poem about agriculture, the farmer, his body, his fingers and his machines as an extension of the body.”

On entering the Bourgeois Gallery, the viewer is immersed in another of Rist’s parallel worlds. The installation Sleeping Pollen (2014) is projected through seven mirrored spheres, suspended from the ceiling, which create moving projections all around the space. Visitors are invited to move in and around the projections, and also to become part of them, reflecting the artist’s continuing desire to create a close relationship between work and viewer. The doors and windows have been covered in translucent acetate in cherry red and moss green, creating a hazy glow that changes in intensity throughout the day. Rist describes Sleeping Pollen as “offering the winter plants an electronic bed in a dark cosy room. Their dreams spin slowly in the air.”

Outside, the installation Hiplights (2011), which was first conceived for Rist’s solo exhibition “Eyeball Massage” at the Hayward Gallery, London in 2011, is a remarkable, outdoor light work, created from hundreds of pairs of underpants with LED lamps. The underwear is strung between each of the buildings around the farmyard, like an enormous celebratory washing line.

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Images Courtesy the artist, Hauser & Wirth and Luhring Augustine, New York. Photo: Ken Adlard / © Pipilotti Rist

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