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Pipilotti Rist
Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH), Houston, Texas
Recommendation by Donna Tennant

Pipilotti Rist, "Pixel Forest," 2016, LED installation with media player, installation view at the New Museum, New York. © Pipilotti Rist. Courtesy of the New Museum, New York. Photo: Maris Hutchinson, EPW Studio

Continuing through September 17, 2017

For the fifth consecutive summer, the central gallery of the museum's Cullinan Hall has provided the setting for an immersive installation project. All the shows have been curated to appeal to both adults and children, and they have been so successful that invariably one has to wait in line to experience them. The latest installation, by Swiss video artist Pipilotti Rist, brings together two earlier independently conceived pieces that she and her team have synchronized into a stunning whole. Titled “Pixel Forest,” the work is composed of a “forest” of some 3,000 suspended glowing orbs (“pixels”). “Worry Will Vanish” refers to a pair of videos projected on panoramic screens at right angles to one another. The hanging orbs are arranged to allow us to meander through them in any direction or pattern. The pixels and videos are synchronized so that shifts in the videos are accompanied by changing colors in the orbs, which blink and pulsate. The show is accompanied by a haunting soundscape created by Rist’s long-time music collaborator Anders Guggisberg. The electronic score is a vital element in creating the mesmerizing ambiance of the environment.

Rist is best known for her videos, and one particularly memorable example was shown a few years ago at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. In “Ever is Over All” (1997) a young girl in a blue dress and red shoes walks down a street happily smashing car windows, while a conspicuously female police officer walking by tips her hat to the girl. This and other videos focusing on feminine liberation and the female body have given Rist a reputation as a feminist. In “Worry Will Vanish,” the 10-minute loop ranges from images of the natural landscape to the cosmos to the human body. Extreme close-ups morph into kaleidoscopic abstractions in a combination of CGI, 3-D animation, and the creator’s photography. The videos were inspired by a year Rist spent practicing autogenic training, a technique in which one learns to control breathing, blood pressure, heartbeat, and body temperature to achieve deep relaxation and relieve stress. The installation is both hypnotic and relaxing, with circular cushions on the floor inviting visitors to recline while they experience this memorable environment.

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