The Color of Your Socks: A Year With Pipilotti Rist follows Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist as she works on various video art installations in the United States and Europe. Director Michael Hegglin follows Rist while she works on various artworks and through all the stages of her major installation, “Pour Your Body Out (7354 Cubic Meters),” which was on display at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, from November 2008 through February 2009.
The DVD, made in 2009, runs 53 minutes. It has no extras, but can be viewed with subtitles in French and English. Languages spoken in the film are Swiss German, German, and English.
Rist began making videos when she was a member of the band Les Reines Prochaines (1988-94). She began concentrating on art and performance art in the ’90s and was awarded the Premio 2000 Prize at the 1997 Venice Biennale. The Color of Your Socks shows Rist in 2005 back in Venice, where she represented Switzerland at the 51st Biennale, with her piece “Homo sapiens sapiens,” a video projected onto the ceiling of the San Stae church. The beautiful church in Santa Croce became the canvas for her video. We watch Rist and her crew arrive and prepare the church, removing a crucifix and arranging special cots on the floor for visitors to properly view the projection.
Back in Zurich at her home/office, Rist ponders what to call herself — Video artist? Installation artist? Simply artist? Her closest factotum advises her that “Artist” would probably be safest, as it covers the most territory. She is also asked to choose her favorite artists for an online publication. Rist selects Anish Kapoor’s “Cloud Gate” and Yoko Ono’s “Ceiling Painting” as favorite pieces.
MoMA commissioned Rist’s video installation “Pour Your Body Out (7354 Cubic Meters).” Hegglin and his camera are there for all phases of production, as Rist, very hands-on, works with her crew prepping the installation. They built a small-scale model (which ended up being a large constructed room) at her studio to work out all the kinks. The actual installation, which was in MoMA’s second-floor atrium, was 25 feet tall.
Rist is in love with color, in both her work and her daily life. She frequently appears in bright plaid pants or suits, or alternately jewel-toned saris, whether attending an opening, meeting with a curator, or getting down on hands and knees to examine and approve the carpet for her latest installation.
We also see her making her feature film Pepperminta, which she worked on from 2005-09. She directs an amusing scene which features of a bunch of businessmen and women tangled together by their ties over a table at an office meeting.
Rist works with a variety of people who keep her schedule, build her installations, handle her press. We see her pop in and out of meetings, always funny, always colorful, frequently insightful, as she leaves her staff to do the work they do best. She is a truly contemporary artist, as much a business woman as a creator of objects and experiences. No artist toiling solo in a studio here.
Right before the opening of “Pour Your Body Out (7354 Cubic Meters)” Rist is asked by a group of museum guards at MoMA what to say to visitors who might not want to remove their shoes before entering the installation space. She proposes they approach the situation with humor, rather than tell them authoritatively, “No shoes!” She suggests they ask people to show them “the color of their socks.” Like her art, Pipilotti Rist is unique and positive and colorful. She’s one of the most interesting artists working today.
Images from top: “Homo sapiens sapiens” (2005), “A Liberty Statue for Löndön” (2005), “Pour Your Body Out [7354 Cubic Meters]” (2008). Images courtesy of Hauser & Wirth.