Review: Getting intimate in Pipilotti Rist's "Pixel Forest"

Up the rabbit hole, down Pipilotti Rist’s gastrointestinal tract and across murky ponds, “Pixel Forest” at the New Museum offers a fully immersive trip into Rist’s whimsical world.

The retrospective exhibit, spanning thirty years, is completely devoid of self-consciousness, as seen in video footage of Rist giving birth to her son, but fully self-aware and carefully executed to push viewers’ understanding of art and the boundaries of their comfort zone. Each floor of Rist’s retrospective is cinematic—metaphorically and actually—fusing video footage, music and average objects like underpants, milk and beds to consume and entrance viewers.

At the start of the exhibit, Rist’s femininity and feminism is projected into a corner using two videos as a welcome, or warning, to those entering her world. In the video, “Ever is Over All,” a woman in a flowing blue dress, armed with a giant flower, smashes the windows of parked cars while viewers sit and lie on a carpet. On the other side of the corner, that flower is shown in its natural place—a field with the sun glowing behind it, bending and waving as the breeze shifts. Rist’s femininity may be a lovely sight, but it is also a force of nature, and one to be reckoned with.

Each interactive installation of Rist’s exhibit is emotive, culminating into an otherworldly experience that’s capped off by an installation requiring viewers to intimate themselves to strangers. In what is traditionally the most private setting—the bedroom—strangers cozy up on mattresses to watch a shared dream sequence in “4th Floor to Mildness.” Looking up through the surface of a video-recorded pond floating above them, this dream world is a reminder of the deep submergence of “Pixel Forest.”

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