You’ve probably seen a number of pictures in your Instagram feed from Pipilotti Rist’s latest exhibition at the New Museum in New York City. And it’s no wonder: her work seems perfectly curated for the social media outlet. But Pixel Forest is much more than a 1080 pixel by 1080 pixel photo inspiring Instagrammers far and wide to double-tap.
Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist has made quite a name for herself as a visual artist. She started making videos in 1986, when the medium was at its height (think MTV), but several years ago she told the New York Times, “I use the same ingredients, I think, but I am cooking a different meal.” It’s quite a different meal, indeed. She’s since evolved into a multimedia magician of sorts, overlaying sculptures and textures with provocative video and imagery.
There had been enough buzz on the exhibition that we knew we’d have to get there early. But even shortly after open, the lines were long and the elevators were at maximum capacity. The exhibition fills three floors of the New Museum — it’s the most comprehensive collection of Rist’s work in New York to date.
What struck me about Pixel Forest is that Rist manages to capture the sharing experience that is so prevalent today, but simultaneously alludes to a more lonely, isolated capsule within. There’s 4th Floor to Mildness, where in a shadowy room with multiple beds visitors are invited to lie down and watch video footage playing overhead of underwater scenes. All the while, haunting tunes from Austrian artist Anja Plaschg’s Soap&Skin play in the background. It’s a heady, intimate experience not dissimilar to what one might imagine being on psychotropic drugs is like. And you’re sharing it with the strangers in your bed.
And yet, in a different installation, you can find large triangular structures that protrude from the wall, each equipped with a viewing hole of sorts. If you pop your head in the hole, you’ll find a video screen surrounded by padded walls. It’s a completely personal experience, and, in that moment, you’re completely shut off from the outside world. The only thing you see and hear is specifically what Rist has chosen for you.
And video always has a somewhat voyeuristic nature to it, doesn’t it? I thought that was brilliantly addressed in Public, Private, Secret at the International Center of Photography Museum (which we talked about here). That sense that you’re looking in on something private isn’t confined to the footage. There’s a miniature model of a room, partially wrecked, suspended in space. As you glance at it, which you can only do while standing on a platform, you see an unmade bed and a half-eaten pizza on the floor. A glimpse into a life.
Pixel Forest is a wonderfully immersive art show. Sights and sounds envelop you and enhance your experience throughout. Closeups of body parts are interspersed with macro scenes from nature, which feels familiar and foreign at the same time. In a darkly lit room, you feel connected to the people sprawled on the floor in front of the screen beside you, but you also feel completely alone, able to contemplate personal thoughts as the colorful images lull you into a trancelike state.
If you’re among the many who paid a visit to the exhibit, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Pixel Forest is on display through January 15.
Tuesday & Wednesday 11 a.m.–6 p.m.
Thursday 11 a.m.–9 p.m.
Friday–Sunday 11 a.m.–6 p.m.
Pair it with:
Brunch at Egg Shop
Since you’re coming from Pixel Forest, let’s go whole-hog on the Instagram-worthy experience. Egg Shop is a cute little restaurant nearby that focuses on — you guessed it — eggs. Even though the area is rife with dining options, you can usually spot Egg Shop by its bright black-and-white sign with a clean Sans font. Past the white paneled glass doors is an intimate and cheery space, complete with a chalkboard featuring daily specials. There’s even a stainless steel bar counter with egg-shaped salt and pepper shakers on it. Get your eggs in a sandwich or a bowl (which they call cruisers). Or if you’re feeling particularly creative after your museum outing, put together your own custom egg and cheese. Eggs win. Always.
Tip: If there’s a long wait, put your name in and go on a street art hunt — Nolita offers some of the best wall murals around.
151 Elizabeth St
Brunch 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Happy Hour 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Dinner Tue – Sat 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.