There is something quite particular about viewing artwork from a horizontal position. A relaxed body, upturned eye and slowness of breath bring about an entirely different gallery experience, one that enables you to feel more truly part of the work at hand.
In Pipilotti Rist’s ‘Worry Will Vanish’ (all works 2014) at Hauser & Wirth, London, such viewing conditions are all-important. In the main space, her large-scale video Worry Will Vanish Horizon is projected across two adjoining walls whose corner creates a partially enclosing space. Soft white duvets are scattered across the carpeted gallery floor, and the room itself is curtained inside and out with denim fabric, which forms an opening to be entered. From within this series of sensual folds visitors watch Rist’s dream-like immersive videos, which are soaked with the pleasures and excesses of the body and the natural world. The viewing experience is a comfortable and lingering one, shared with others. The space slips gently between cinema and bedroom as each relaxed body attunes to the work.
n Worry Will Vanish Horizon itself, super-saturated images slide and overlap, oozing and dripping in slow motion. At one point, a web of veins stretched like a net across translucent glowing skin fills the screen. It seems to shift from the womb to an intergalactic landscape, and back again. At another, a woman twists and stretches, her long lithe body hovering at the join between the two walls. An enormous eye watches everything, following a kaleidoscopic path with no known destination, as Rist’s camera swoops between landscapes of varying scales derived both from the body and from the wider world. As the film loops back on itself, visitors explore secret interiors and vast exteriors deeper, together: bright leaves dappled by sunlight, flying sparks, crisply frosted fronds of grass, lips, blood-red sea, a sleeping freckled face. The images are calming and sleep-inducing: they are also overtly ecstatic, disorientating and a little disturbing. Their rich tones pass tantalisingly like liquid over the body and through one’s fingers.
Outside the main installation are three smaller works that combine sculptural installations with video. Here Rist moves away from the shared viewing experience toward the private. Gigantic Pear Log contains a glass sphere that seems to suggest a two-way gaze: it is at once a crystal ball and an all-seeing eye. From behind the glass a tiny video shows a woman swirling in the darkness of space. Later on, a man in a suit is trapped, revolving similarly. Nearby is Stone Skyscraper, a video of abundant flora projected onto a building hewn from sandstone. Standing just over a metre high, it resembles a miniature monolith, perhaps a phallus. As inWorry Will Vanish Horizon, scales here are mixed-up, perspectives deftly transformed.
Back in the main room, a rhythmic, melting soundtrack accompanies the video (made with artist and musician Anders Guggisberg). As the visitors’ bodies languish in the gallery, they are simultaneously carried away imaginatively, bobbing along the surface of the video and sinking into its liquid depths.
Commissioned and published by Apollo Magazine, 12 December 2014