Pipilotti Rist ”Congratulations!”
Prologue by David Neuman, director Magasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall
People who feel that talking about art ruins it should stop reading now –conversation between the artist and Richard Julin, chief curator
Exhibition catalogue no 36 published by Magasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall in three separate editions in Swedish, English and German.
160 pages, color. Richly illustrated. Hard cover. Published 2007 in collaboration with Lars Müller Publishers
ISBN 978-91-976646-0-8 / ISBN 978-3-03778-107-4 / 978-3-03778-108-1
RJ: I’d like to mention something about your behaviour that strikes me every time we meet. It’s a kind of emphatic respect you show towards everyone around you. It’s in the way you speak but also in the way you act. For instance, you hold the door open for everyone! I believe this respectful behaviour towards others is also echoed in your art. Does what I’m saying feel like a fair description of you?
PR: For me the question of ethics and motivation is of burning interest as I am currently in a phase of upheaval and change. There is a political stance that affects my work, and a personal one. The moment one talks about certain things they can lose their innocence – like when someone says you are so spontaneous, you are so warm-hearted, or you are so attentive… For me this is about morality or an ethics of behaviour, something you don’t talk about. It reflects the way you see people. Then there is your political attitude. Somewhere in between all kinds of errors in the system light up. I had to learn that there’s no such thing as the right ideology. I’m suspicious of people who lump together morality and their vision of an ideal world into a single, hermetic ideology or a religious hypothesis. Yet at the same time I’m curious about the ‘new subject’. As for opening doors… Well, you just met my mother Anna down on the street. She brought us children up to be polite and to look after others. A part of that comes down to the values you adopt as a child. It is important to me that people pay attention to one another and that we take each other seriously. These are theoretical ideas that suit who I am, and at the same time I feel as though I lost quite a number of years due to the narrow perspective of leftwing ideology and the fear of divine punishment. I want to hold the door open out of my own free will. At the moment I find all this quite confusing.
RJ: Do you allow yourself to doubt?
PR: People often ask me if my art is feminist. I am a feminist, that’s a point of honour and logical, so long as society’s horizons are not equally accessible for everyone. But there are thousands of other insights that shape my inquiries. Even though I have a positive view of humanity, there is room for ambivalence in my work; accepting this should foster a certain mildness towards oneself. This is what I strive for in my work. When viewers experience my works I hope they will stop being quite so hard on themselves. Maybe this is what you are detecting. Of course, I am not actually where my works are. As a human being I can’t fully achieve the same nonchalance or power that I to some extent explicitly look for or distil in my works. As an individual I am not identical to my works. Sometimes I view myself as neurotic and anxious. But I made a conscious decision not to directly transfer such feelings into my work, even if I don’t deny them either.
RJ: I would like to discuss your new piece, “Tyngdkraft, var min vän”. Having seen the model, it is now clear that it is related to the pieces you made in the last two years, “Homo Sapiens Sapiens” in Venice and “A Liberty Statue for Löndön” in London.
PR: Yes, all three works offer the viewer or the listener a reclining position. I have always been interested in how the body moves in the room in relation to the work of art. The viewing ritual and physical posture appear almost to be given facts. I analyse movement towards art. The way to and then within the institution is a ritual, just like, say, how people in Stockholm go down to the harbour and into the warehouse where Magasin 3 is. It’s a small journey of its own. One takes some time off – comparable to what a church visit used to be – and spends ostensibly unproductive time in order to compose oneself and to think. I want to emphasise this meditative dimension by trying to get the installation to suspend gravity for a while and reduce muscle tension. It’s easier to relax one’s muscles when lying down. Most of the time, muscular activity means far more than simply performing the need to walk or keeping our skeleton in an upright position. All our thoughts, everything we see, everything we’re afraid of, is reflected in our muscle tone. This can also be approached the other way round. Your ability to relax your muscles will have an effect on your thinking. It is what’s called ‘somatopsychic’. To make “Tyngdkraft, var min vän” I went under water again. In fact it is the sister piece of “Sip My Ocean”. I was talking to someone about this last week: we should really call our planet “Water” rather than “Earth”. In purely practical, technical terms, I’ve now learned to shoot underwater HD. We worked with two different cameras. Now I know how I’d like to work underwater. In the Venice piece, Pepperminta (who was played by Ewelina Guzik) was in a time before the Fall, before Original Sin, with her sister Edna. Beyond all social classes or temporal references. In the London piece, she returns to civilization. In Stockholm she is seen – simply speaking – transcending gravity and the seasons of the year together with another androgynous person. She flies away from the world. My nephew David, who played the second character, came to the shoot on the third day with his hair cut. [laughs] It was a massive shock! He’s my sister Ursula’s fifteen-year-old son. We spent two days filming on the Old Rhine. Then one night in an open-air swimming pool, where he suddenly turned up without his long hair. He hadn’t realised that he was playing the role of an androgynous figure. I should have made that explicit to him as a lay actor. “Tyngdkraft, var min vän” describes the fantasy of living beyond gender difference and simulates our dissolution into water, air and atoms.
Excerpt from the catalogue Congratulations!, 2007