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Pipilotti Rist's work at the Albright-Knox

"All or Nothing" by Pipilotti Rist

Mirror Images

Three artworks by Swiss-born Pipilotti Rist in the newly christened Gallery for New Media at the Albright-Knox are called video sculpture. They could as well be called video installations. They combine video in unusual ways with framing environments incorporating items from household furniture and appliances to books to tchotchke found objects to fresh flowers.

The combination in each case is meant to be enigmatic and thought-provoking, and no doubt add a further level of mystery to the videos, which consist of varieties of dream imagery usually of a peaceful and pleasant sort, but with some somewhat darker content occasionally creeping in.

The piece called Enlight My Space (the rather clunky titles are the result of translation from the German) is a kind of bookshelf or perhaps mantel top with books and tchotchkes and some dangling clear plastic forms—like molds you might pour chocolate into—and a mysterious videographic feature. That is, video is projected from some at least initially unseen source onto the dangling clear plastic and opaque but irregular background behind the plastic. Breaking up and confusing the projection—making it hard to decipher—but then you see it consists of dreamlike vignettes of mountain pastoral landscape (with cows, even), then what seems to be seascape amid more or less just abstractions. And the one book open on the shelf or mantel is open to a page illustrating childbirth procedure. And the dangling clear plastic forms turn out to be uterine forms. A feminist meditation, but you make of it what you make. It doesn’t tell you.

A piece called All or Nothing consists of a meditation altar with amenities (including a functional water cooler with paper cups—you’re encouraged to have a drink to promote relaxation and meditation—plates of refreshment candies and palate cleansers and a vase of cut flowers) around a triptych of book-page-size video monitors. What the monitors show are mirror-images and kaleidoscope-images (employing a triple array of mirrors) of body parts, including hands, particularly fingers, on one monitor and genital parts on another (mainly abstractions on the third monitor).

Sometimes mirror images are subsequently kaleidoscope-imaged. So, this genital appendage, mirror-imaged (so times two), then kaleidoscope-imaged (so three times two, equals six), then with attached dual appendages (so two times two, equals four, times three, equals 12), plus the attached original appendage (times six—see above calculation—plus 12, equals 18). I don’t know. Maybe if you’re into this sort of imagery.

The third piece, called Lap Lamp, consists of a chair and stand-up reading lamp that’s probably not so much a lamp as a projection apparatus to project a video of “tree-filled fields, cut firewood, and nettles,” according to verbal explanatory material, onto the seated person’s lap. The day I was there, the piece wasn’t working, however, apparently due to the want of an adaptor to plug the European three-prong plug into the American wall socket. Just the chair was welcome, however. Conducive to peaceful meditation. (A little reminiscent of Matisse’s idea that art should be an easy chair.)

The Pipilotti Rist exhibit runs through July 3.

jack foran

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