Across two Chelsea galleries, 'Prickling Goosebumps & a Humming Horizon' transcends earlier feminist interpretations of the artist's work to delve into cosmic ecosystems of vegetal delights
Pipilotti Rist is not a feminist. Or rather, as she told the Guardian in 2011, she is ‘politically’, but not ‘personally’ – a bold blurring of the 1970s maxim that the personal is always political. Rist would prefer other adjectives like ‘wild and friendly.’ The kind of utopia she builds is a pre-political one; more Garden of Eden than militant commune.
Culture critic Aruna D’Souza has described how unsettling it is to rewatch Rist’s Ever is All Over (1997), in which a woman dressed like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz (1939) breaks a car window with a large prop flower and a female cop walks by and nods. Perhaps her most famous work, the video has since been referenced in a Beyoncé’s visual album, Lemonade (2016), driving up attendance to her New Museum retrospective later that same year. ‘I would have preferred that Beyoncé did it with a flower and not a baseball bat, because it changes the meaning,’ Rist told The New Yorker in 2020. ‘But, no, I was very flattered’. Few video artists have had such reach in the popular consciousness.
Rist’s new exhibition, ‘Prickling Goosebumps & a Humming Horizon’ features windows named after activists like Sojourner Truth and Amaranta Gómez Regalado, a wink to the political realm without offering explicit commentary. She was also inspired by other avant-garde women artists like Yoko Ono. Rist’s work can certainly come across as innocent, with a similar whimsical affect to that of Icelandic popstar Björk. Both women have used art to gesture towards powerful new worlds, ones that captivate us with their vast reimagining of the damaged one we live in.
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