Qatar Museums to present first survey exhibition of artworks by Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist

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Qatar Museums to present first survey exhibition of artworks by Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist
Pipilotti Rist, Welling Color Island, 2023. Video still. ę ProLitteris. Courtesy of the artist, Hauser & Wirth and Luhring Augustine.

DOHA.- Qatar Museums will open Electric Idyll – the first survey exhibition dedicated to renowned contemporary Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist (b. 1962) in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region — at the Fire Station: Artist in Residence in Doha on 23 February 2024. Designed as a single, comprehensive installation spanning the more than 650-square-metre exhibition space of the Fire Station’s Garage Gallery, Electric Idyll presents a diverse collection of some of the artist’s most celebrated works combined with new participatory pieces created specifically for this exhibition. Curated by Massimiliano Gioni, the exhibition opens as part of the special February gathering of Qatar Creates, the year-round national cultural movement that promotes and celebrates the diversity of cultural activities in Qatar and connects residents and global audiences with Qatar’s creative industries. The exhibition will remain on view through 1 June 2024.

Emerging in the 1990s as part of a generation of artists who explore the connections between technology, nature, and the spectacle of omni-pervasive images in contemporary societies, Rist has been internationally celebrated for her video installations, which combine immersive projections and communal experiences of dreamlike contemplation. For Electric Idyll, Rist develops the exhibition as a hypnotic diorama—an all-encompassing digital landscape comprising 14 works.

Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Chairperson of Qatar Museums, said, “Pipilotti Rist’s work is a favorite among the many people who have enjoyed her lively and immersive installation at the National Museum of Qatar. We are proud and excited to deepen our ties with her by presenting this endlessly fascinating new interactive exhibition, the first of its kind in our region, which she has designed especially for our audiences. Technologically advanced in its methods but deeply human in spirit, it is sure to inspire wonder in children in this Year of the Family, while taking adult visitors on a journey to a space where we question how we view the world and each other.”

Surrounded by multicolored textile wall prints and curtains, the exhibition is connected by a series of “electric islands,” as the artist describes them: interactive displays where the combination of video projections, pieces of furniture, carpets, and domestic objects together create large “still lives” that can be engaged by the audience. In these “living rooms”—spaces that are both alive and lived in—images are projected onto viewers, effectively turning them and every surface of the gallery into screens and carriers of images. These and the other works on view in Electric Idyll continue Rist’s expansive research into the intersection of human senses and digital technologies, imagining a future in which the biological and the electronic meet in a new body electric.

Pipilotti Rist said, “When I create a work of art, I am making an offering—a celebration of the beauty and the monstrousness of being alive. To pay tribute to all our senses and the brain, nature gave me my hands: now I give them back to her. I consider all artistic products—from ceramics and paintings to embroidery, films, and music—as offerings. Art that really reaches you and me floods us with wisdom: it trains us to accept different opinions; it instills serenity and reconciles reason and instinct; it helps us admit our biases and establish mental synchrony; it can raise utopias and help us be in awe and thankful. I cry for all the people who cannot—less for the ones that do not want – enjoy art.”

The exhibition is bookended by Ever is Over All (1997)—the video installation that won Rist the prestigious award for best young artist at the 1997 Venice Biennale—and one of her recent vast digital panoramas, Worry Will Vanish (2015). Additional exhibition highlights include Shapeshifter Window Inside Out Inside Window Fluid Portal Window a new series of video installations presented within abstract window frames, and Deine Raumkapsel “Your Space Capsule” (2015), a mesmerising installation that invites viewers to peek at a scene inside a glowing wooden box.

Electric Idyll marks the second major presentation of Rist’s work in Doha, following the installation Your Brain to Me, My Brain to You (2022), which remains on view at the National Museum of Qatar until 30th of April 2024. The commissioned installation invites visitors to embark on a journey of self-discovery through a multisensory experience that inspires introspection and awe. A key feature of Your Brain to Me, My Brain to You are “pixels” that comprise 12,000 LED lights strung on cables throughout the gallery for visitors to navigate. Representing neurons, constantly firing and communicating with each other, the pulsing resin-encased bulbs have been programmed in choreography with a soundscape and featuring abstract footage of Qatar’s landscapes.

Pipilotti Rist

Pipilotti Rist, a pioneer of spatial video art, was born in 1962 in Grabs in the Swiss Rhine Valley on the Austrian border and has been a central figure within the international art scene since the mid-1980s.

Astounding the art world with the energetic exorcistic statement of her now-famous single channel videos, such as I’m Not The Girl Who Misses Much (1986) and her artistic work has co-developed with technical advancements and in playful exploration of its new possibilities to propose footage resembling a collective brain. Through large video projections and digital manipulation, she has developed immersive installations that draw life from slow caressing showers of vivid color tones, like her works Sip My Ocean (1996) and Worry Will Vanish (2014).

For Rist, showing vulnerability is a sign of strength on which she draws for inspiration. With her curious and lavish recordings of nature (to which humans belong as an animal), and her investigative editing, Rist seeks to justify the privileged position we are born with, simply by being human. Her installations and exhibition concepts are expansive, finding within the mind, senses and body the possibility for endless discovery and poetical invention. Pixel Forest (2016), made from 3,000 LEDs hung on strings, resembles a movie screen that has exploded into the room, allowing viewers an immersive walk through 3-dimensional video. As she herself puts it, ‘beside the energy-intensive exploration of the geographical world, pictures, films and sounds have been and are the spaces into which we can escape... The projector is the flamethrower, the space is the vortex and you are the pearl within.’

Since 1984, Rist has had countless solo and group exhibitions, and video screenings worldwide. Her recent solo exhibitions include the exhibition Prickling Goosebumps and a Humming Horizon at Hauser & Wirth and Luhring Augustine Chelsea, New York (2023), the site-specific installation Hand Me Your Trust on the M+ Facade, Hong Kong (2023); Behind Your Eyelid at Tai Kwun Contemporary, Hong Kong (2022); Big Heartedness, Be My Neighbor at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA (The Museum of Contemporary Art), Los Angeles (2021–2022); Your Eye Is My Island at MoMAK (The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto) and Art Tower Mito (2021); ┼bn min Lysning (Open my Glade) at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, HumlebŠk (2019); Sip My Ocean at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney (2017–2018); Pixel Forest at New Museum, New York (2016 – 2017); at Kunsthaus ZŘrich (2016), all resulted in record-breaking attendance numbers for each institution.

About Massimiliano Gioni

Massimiliano Gioni is an Italian curator and contemporary art critic based in New York City. He is the Edlis Neeson Artistic Director at the New Museum, New York, where he has curated numerous exhibitions, including solo shows by, among others, John Akomfrah, Ed Atkins, Lynda Benglis, Judy Chicago, Tacita Dean, Nicole Eisenman, Urs Fischer, Hans Haacke, Camille Henrot, Carsten Höller, Kahlil Joseph, Ragnar Kjartansson, Sarah Lucas, Gustav Metzger, Marta Minujin, Chris Ofili, Raymond Pettibon, Carol Rama, Faith Ringgold, Pipilotti Rist, Anri Sala, Peter Saul, Nari Ward, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. He has organized major group shows including After Nature (2008); Ostalgia (2011); Here and Elsewhere (2014); The Keeper (2016); and Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America (2021).

Gioni was the artistic director of the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013 and his international exhibitions include The Warmth of Other Suns at the Phillips Collection (Washington DC, 2019); The Restless Earth (Milan, Triennale, 2017) and The Great Mother (Milan Expo at Palazzo Reale, 2015), both with the Nicola Trussardi Foundation; the 10th Gwangju Biennale (2010); the 1st New Museum Triennial (2009); the 4th Berlin Biennale (2006); and Manifesta 5 (2004).

The director of the Trussardi Foundation in Milan, Gioni is a frequent collaborator of the Dakis Joannou/Deste Foundation and the Tony Salame/Aishti Foundation, and has organized exhibitions in many international institutions including Museo Jumex in Mexico City and the Long Museum in Shanghai.

In Doha, Gioni has curated the first major exhibition by an international artist in Qatar, Takashi Murakami: Ego in 2012; the major solo exhibition Jeff Koons: Lost in America at Qatar Museums Gallery – Al Riwaq; and in 2022 he co-curated the exhibition Forever Valentino at M7.

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