Time is lost here. Suspended. Among these sinuous, morphing melanges of moving light and image, we are wrestled from chronology and place, from the regimented events of the day-to-day. This is the realm of touch, of sensuality, of a world that exists between physical and emotional states. All else is stripped away.
Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist is a rare bird in the context of a contemporary art world so often wrought by work that fails to engage and speak for itself. She is an artist unafraid to eschew the academic, to privilege the unconscious. Her new show at the ACCA, which opened on Wednesday December 21 and runs throughout summer, articulates as much. I Packed the Postcard in my Suitcase couples multiple, layered video projections with unconventional, oblique screen environments to not only defamiliarise the standard, rectangular viewing experience of the moving image, but to disarm and immerse its audience.
There is the original vedute painting – a kind of elaborate postcard for wealthy tourists to Venice in the 17th and 18th centuries – animated and enlivened by intricate layers of projected video, colour and light. Prodigious pink lips subsume the sky like sensuous clouds; buildings are bathed in bright, lurid light. The staid Venetian canal scene is reinvigorated and re-imagined as intensely personal experience. There is the formal dining table, a projection from within the lampshade above burrowing a wormhole into wet earth and creepy-crawly microcosms.
A rolling horizon of blue and green consumes the walls of the main space. Two ‘islands’ constructed from piles of intricately cut and layered carpet create a gradient landscape on which to lie and gaze at the amorphous screens suspended from the ceiling above. It is again a world between states; we find ourselves just beneath or just above the surface of a lake, the dance or light and water and bodies entwines and envelops.
There is Rist’s 1999 work I Couldn’t Agree With You More, which turns a trip to the supermarket into an out-of-body, psychosexual experience. Perhaps the most striking is Administrating Eternity (2011), a maze of flowing, transparent fabric screens illuminated and animated by a swaddle of elusive visual cues, data and the shadows of those who wander the space.
The exhibition’s title speaks volumes. The idea of packing a postcard in one’s suitcase may seem counterintuitive, but Rist’s mementos exist outside of the restraints of time and geography. Her formless video works provide only the sensory details of the experience – the cool blur of the water, the grit of soil on the skin, the soft caress of the lips – and this is their precise strength.
In the West, we are conditioned to repress and inhibit such elements of human experience. With age and with maturity, one doesn’t play in the water and dig in the soil. Pipilotti Rist, on the other hand, reminds us of its joy, wonder and importance.
Pipilotti Rist: I Packed the Postcard in my Suitcase shows at ACCA until March 4 2012.