Pipilotti Rist: Sip My ocean

In the year 2001 I went to the Museum of Contemporary Art to see an exhibition called Art/Music: rock, pop, techno.  This is where I first encountered the work of Swiss video artist Pipilotti Rist.  I remember walking into a dimly lit room, with projections around me.  I was half-submerged in shallow sea water.  Objects of domestic bliss were falling and sinking through the water, a red bikini clad woman frolicked in the shallows, with lots of kaleidoscope vagina imagery, while the artist herself was singing a, really bloody terrible, rendition of Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game.  This was Sip My Ocean.

The artwork has film clip like attributes, similar to a techno clip from the early 1990’s played on rage in the early hours of the morning.  Weird overlay imagery flying through the clouds.  Somehow it really resonated with a teenage me.  It got stuck in my head.  I kept referencing it in essays, I bought a Chris Isaak CD, I contemplated what the imagery meant.  A lot.  This was the first artwork by Pipilotti that launched her as an ‘artist’, it was her first work bought by a public institution, the Swiss equivalent of the MCA.  It is also the title work of her retrospective exhibition at the MCA in 2017/2018, Pipiloti Wrist: Sip My Ocean.

Rist creates immersive environments through technology.  In the 1990s she used single channel video, which had a lot of music video feelings.  In fact Beyonce, knowingly or not, referenced Rist’s work Ever is Over All (1997) in a music video for Hold Up (2016).  Which makes a beautiful circle of influence, music to video to art to music to video, past to present to past to present.  Pipilotti references popular culture, even taking her name from the children’s book character Pipi Longstockings.  She is of her time, using the popular culture Zeitgeist for inspiration.

In the early days of video art, and art that used new technologies, usually it was the medium itself being referenced.  Artworks tended to be experimentations and explorations of the medium.  This is true of Pipilotti Rist, who explored the medium of video art through single channel videos in her early days studying at art college.  Meshing music, imagery and popular culture.  Fast forward to 2018 and Rist engulfs the viewer still in video and projection but also with rooms full of hanging jelly fish lights, huge beds to lay and watch underwater worlds floating above you, and a living room sprung from the artist’s mind on acid. These spaces are beautiful and immersive and the perfect background for social medium images, creating another beautiful circle of social media impacting life, or art imitating life.  From art to photo to Instagram to influence to art, #pipilottirist #sipmyocean.

Right in the middle of all the immersive visuals and sounds and music and popular culture is a very overt feminist thought.  The female body is everywhere.  In Sip My Ocean the bikini clad woman kaleidoscope between two corner screens, constantly creating pink vagina like imagery with her body and breasts.  She is unapologetic.  As is the Dorothy like character in Ever is Over All who is happily smashing the windows of cars.  later works reference nature more than the female body.  But her feminist feel is mainly felt in her earlier works.  As time shifts, so does Rists’ interests.  Spaces of contemplation, with objects and less obvious visuals seems to be her thing.  Environments, from her inner conscious, for everyone to visit and connect within, not just females.

This exhibition has some very engaging features.  The jellyfish light room (Pixelwald, 2016, a collaboration with Kaori Kuwabara that features a forest of hanging lights which respond to music) is beautiful, and awe-inspiring.  It calls out to you to float amongst it. (But you can’t! You are actually told off in nearly every room of the gallery for not engaging with the art correctly.  I was actually yelled at by an invigilator who said I looked like I was going to touch an artwork. She aggressively yelled at me from across a room. Fun times at the MCA!)  The domestic space on acid, (the site specific work for the MCA titled Your Room Opposite the Opera, 2017) has so much to inspire and reflect upon.  Teenagers loved rolling around in the bed, young children wrote and drew in the visitors book, kids loved bouncing on the carpet watching the projections.  There is a lot to engage students with this work.

Stage 5/Stage 6

Pipilotti Rist: Sip My ocean

Dämmerschlaf at Artspace

Mikala Dwyer, ‘The hanging garden of moonman marigolds’, 2016, installation view, ‘Dämmerschlaf’, Artspace, Sydney. Courtesy the artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery and Anna Schwartz Gallery. Photo: Artspace.
Accessed on 23 January 2016:  http://www.artspace.org.au/program/exhibitions/2016/daemmerschlaf/


Right now and throughout mid January to mid February, above the Australian sky, there is a planetary alignment that is happening.  If you look up to the predawn sky, all five of the visible (to the human eye) planets, being Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Mars and Saturn, can be seen all together, hanging out in the universe above us like a gang of celestial buddies.  The planets are brought together by invisible forces, and during this same period of celestial connection, three artists are also brought together to explore the connection of the physical and conceptual thresholds between the studio and the gallery.

Nick Dorey, Mikala Dwyer, Clare Milledge are exhibiting in Dämmerschlaf, the first exhibition of the Artspace 2016 program.  All three artists were 2015 One Year Studio Artists at Artspace, and this is their resulting body of work.  Dämmerschlaf is the German word for ‘twilight sleep’, a form of calming pain relief.  Dämmerschlaf is an evolving experience taking place throughout the month of January, slowly growing and moving and aligning throughout the course of the exhibition.  All artists have relocated their working environments from the upstairs studio to the downstairs gallery, creating together and aligning their ideas in the exhibition space. The artist is actively present throughout the exhibition, creating and designing the space where you can watch them in-situ, much like the planets in our night time sky.

Why the link between Dämmerschlaf and the planets? Well, the works are of a spiritual and supernatural perspective.  The artists explore the occult, the moon, perceptions of realities and physical and conceptual thresholds.

Stage 6
This would be a good experience for Stage 6 students to go and visit an artists studio in preparation for creating a major body of work.  Artistic collaboration and different art making practices can be viewed in-situ and compared between the artists.

The Conceptual Framework can explore the notions of space, the studio space vs exhibition space. The physical and spiritual space.  The artist and the audience in the same space.  The performance of the creation of the work can also be explored.  There is a public program from GreenUps, which indicate concepts of sustainability will be at play throughout the exhibition.  Another concept to explore is the title: What does Dämmerschlaf mean? (The German word Dämmerschlaf is translated into English as ‘twilight sleep’, which describes a state induced by a combination of analgesia (pain relief) and amnesia to combat the pain — or the memory of pain). Why is this title significant? How does twilight sleep, amnesia and an induced state of calm and relief feature in the exhibition?

Dämmerschlaf at Artspace