Pipilotti Rist's Music

Harris, Mark. 1999. Pipilotti Rist's Music. In: , ed. Wishing for Synchronicity: Works by Pipilotti Rist. Houston, Texas: Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, pp. 14-23. ISBN 978-1-933619-17-0 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

This essay on Pipilotti Rist's music was written following her exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. It was published in the book “Wishing for Synchronicity: works by Pipilotti Rist” in 2009.

The essay argues that Rist's music, in conjunction with her video work, represents a utopia in the present, rather than one deferred. By showing a somatic immersion of actors amongst dream-like, or hallucinatory, imagery and ambient sound, Rist imagines environments where women can play securely and without inhibition, whether in countryside or city. Starting with sampled pop songs Rist then moves to electronic sound with collaborator Anders Guggisberg. Their treatments have close links to precedents in experimental music of the 1950s and 60s like compositions by Lou and Bebe Barron, Alvin Lucier and Pauline Oliveros.

That Rist's later work frequently incorporates sounds of water recalls the music of composers like Wendy Carlos and Annea Lockwood as well as the practice of sound ecologists like Murray Schafer who advocated attunement to sounds that were disappearing under the sonic assault of urban industrial noise. Rist's videos exclude urban industrial sounds in preference for drifting mixes of water, voice and subtle electronic motifs with imagery of women subverting expected rules and patterns of behavior. In this respect they align with Michel De Certeau’s concept of “tactics” in navigating city streets where individuals unconsciously develop anti-geometric and anti-panoptic trajectories that embody present-day utopian practices.

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Date Deposited:

21 May 2013 10:25

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 15:51



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