Eerie, thought provoking and initially elusive; a visual feast awaits at the Southbank Centre’s Hayward Gallery.

Following Maggie Semple’s private viewing of Pipilotti Rist’s aptly named ‘Eyeball Massage’ exhibition during last week’s Indian summer, the Semple team were inspired to visit the exhibition, and found ourselves immersed in the wonderful world of Pipilotti.

On entering the exhibition, the Semple team were greeted by a vast, darkened room, lit only by the light provided from the huge video projections which appear on the billboard sized walls. Not to be overlooked, the first installation we see is a chandelier, lit internally and externally and created from underwear provided by the family and friends of Pipilotti Rist herself.

Pipilotti Rist: Eyeball Massage Installation view at the Hayward Gallery. Photo Linda Nylind Foreground - Massachusetts Chandelier (2010) Staircase - I Never Taught In Buffallo II (2003/2011) wallpaper

As we moved around the exhibition, we felt a sense of eerie uneasiness, realising that the large dark rooms and whimsical sounds, combined with the way Rist presents her visual art, has been created in such a way that the visitor needs to take a closer look, immerse and include themselves in the art in order to understand quite what it is they are looking at. A sculptural video installation in the form of a pyramid shaped projection of light mysteriously invites spectators to insert their heads into the structure through small circles. The viewer becomes part of the installation, feeling partly vulnerable as their sight is detached from their body, yet a part of something, as numerous heads also view this visual installation in a cinema styled layout. We watch, mesmerised, as the video featuring Pipliotti herself dancing and singing a line from a famous Beatles song plays. Sound, image speed and colour are all distorted creating what is described by Rist as an ‘exorcist dance which invokes a positive form of hysteria’.

Pipilotti Rist: Eyeball Massage Installation view at the Hayward Gallery. Lap Lamp (2006) Photo Linda Nylind

We are invited to sit and beam video projections of the countryside through an insect’s eyes onto our laps, to lay relaxed on stuffed clothes while we are submerged into an all enveloping set of screens spanning out of our peripheral vision, and to bend down to the floor in order to decipher what we are seeing in the easily missed miniature installation within the flooring. On closer inspection we can see a naked woman looking up at us asking to be rescued from the abyss below. Pipilotti wants us to take away the message that we must forgive and help ourselves and others.

Pipilotti Rist: Eyeball Massage Installation view at the Hayward Gallery. Photo Linda Nylind Selfless In The Bath of Lava (1994)

A perception Pipilotti has made, which most women can relate to, is the comparison between video installations and handbags. For both, she feels, ‘there is room in them for everything: painting, technology, language, music, movement…’. We are invited to stare into handbags and shells at tiny screens of close up videos including an enormous eye, and close ups of people and body parts which we must become part of in order to decipher what they are. Nothing here can be taken at first impression, we must look closer, engross ourselves into the three dimensional video projections, and take time to figure out exactly what Pipilotti has intended for us to see with her bright colours, distorted movements and close-up shots.

Pipilotti Rist: Eyeball Massage Installation view at the Hayward Gallery. Lobe Of The Lung (2009) Photo Linda Nylind

Ali Roff

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