On the Friday after Thanksgiving, I visited the New Museum in New York, which dedicated all its galleries to video works during this time. Three of the museum’s floors were dedicated to a retrospective of the Swiss video and media artist Pipilotti Rist. It is the first major retrospective of her work in New York.
The title piece of the exhibition filled most of the third floor gallery. The huge immersive piece consisted of hanging strands of resin beads with LEDs that gradually changed colors in a uniform synchronous manner.
Viewers were encouraged to walk among the strands, bumping and even touching the surfaces which had a somewhat oily feel to them. There was a certain hypnotic beauty to the experience, even with the large number of other visitors wandering through. The effect was completed by water sounds throughout the space.
The floor below featured some of Rist’s earlier works, including some of her single channel videos. There was one that featured close-ups people people eating, but also growing vegetation and an appearance by a cat.
But even these single channel videos were projected onto moving curtains which allowed visitors to move among the pieces, becoming part of the larger installation. A small set of elliptical laser lights also moved about the lower gallery.
One corner featured a series of larger two-panel video works. I was particularly taken with this one featuring a nicely dressed woman smashing car windows with the stalk of a plant that was shown growing in a field in some clips.
The top floor of the gallery showed Rist’s newest pieces, which placed video and media into architectural spaces. This sight-specific piece projected irregular aquatic video onto the ceiling while views lay below on beds. Nearby was another much smaller architectural piece featuring a bedroom and a model of the moon with video projection.
It was quite adorable, but showed how the architectural focus of her most recent works could be done on multiple scales, very large and very small.
The ground floor gallery featured a series of video works by Chinese artist Cheng Ran. The exhibition, titled Diary of a Madman was based on Cheng’s three-month residence in New York with the New Museum. Based on a Chinese short story written in 1918, the videos were shot and editing in New York and feature a variety of locations, including an abandoned psychiatric hospital on Long Island. I found the combination of bleak spaces with musical elements to be quite interesting.
A visit to the New Museum often includes a visit to the observation deck on the top floor. It was a cold but clear day which provided for a good view of the changing skyline of lower Manhattan.
Overall, it was a good visit to the museum. But I was far from alone, as it was quite crowded with a line waiting to get in. I suppose on a dreary day when so many are running around shopping, a dark museum is a very inviting place indeed.