Pipilotti Rist, FACT, Liverpool
Wednesday 02 July 2008
What's in the change of a name? In the case of a girl once christened Elisabeth Charlotte Rist, quite a lot. The Swiss video-maker Pipilotti Rist changed her name to Pippi (of which Pipilotti is a diminutive) when she forged a new identity for herself as an artist. The adoption of Pippi meant that she had decided to be re-born as the heir presumptive to Pippi Longstocking, the sparky little girl who was invented in the 1940s by the Swedish author Astrid Lindgren.
So it is not surprising that when we go into the room which is projecting Rist's new video, Gravity Be My Friend, we should be told to lie on the floor and stare up at the ceiling. The floor is covered in layers of carpet. They feel like comfortable contour maps of islands cast adrift on a calmish sea. The film itself looks and feels like a scene of Edenic innocence, enhanced by LSD. A shapely girl, squeezing her knees like a foetus, bobs about. Everything moves in dreamy slow time.
Next door in the Media Lounge, reality seems to have changed all over again. This time we are faced by a tiny TV screen on the floor, and we are invited to sit on a giant red sofa. It's so big that our legs project straight out as if we were children again. Someone hands us a giant remote. Here we can sample some of Rist's early works, flicking channels with the petulant impatience of children – in one film, Pippi's face looms back at us, eyes boggling like an alien, in the next, she's playing air guitar.
Upstairs, in gallery two, comes the rest of the show. In the doorway a film about menstruation is being shown. Perfect human teeth are slippery with blood. It all looks, once again, hallucinogenic – this woman is clearly in love with the legacy of the Sixties.
Once through the door, we can watch a young woman skipping along an urban street, smashing car windows as she goes. She's smiling gaily. To the right of the woman, a rush of incoherent imagery is pouring in. Could this be the unconscious shaping our every anarchic move? Probably.
But the biggest image of Pipilotti Rist that you'll get to see in Liverpool this summer is on a giant screen in Clayton Square shopping centre. This is the artist turning herself into a kind of close-up of the dissolving flesh of a Francis Bacon painting. She presses her face up against the glass. Her eyes look as huge as saucers. The harder she presses, the more her face seems to contort. It's both alarming and horribly captivating in an oddly retching sort of way.
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