Tai Kwun Contemporary today opens the large-scale exhibition Behind Your Eyelid—Pipilotti Rist, offering visitors a deep dive into the fantastical and humorous world of the internationally renowned media artist Pipilotti Rist (b. 1962, Switzerland). Immersive, sensual, and insightful, the works of Rist embrace viewers with colours, sounds, and moving images. As visitors walk around and lie down in her mesmerising installations of “organised light”, they will take pleasure in how she makes the familiar unfamiliar while pointing out beauty in unexpected places. The exhibition will run from 3 August to 27 November 2022.
As Rist’s first solo exhibition in Hong Kong, Behind Your Eyelid—Pipilotti Rist comprises more than 45 of her iconic works from the past thirty years—including early single-channel videos with their tongue-in-cheek humour, large-scale moving-image installations brimming with colour and music, sculptural works that merge video and everyday objects—this exhibition goes far beyond a survey of the artist’s oeuvre. Behind Your Eyelid—Pipilotti Rist offers new site-specific works that will pass through the glass windows of JC Contemporary and caress the historic Tai Kwun site with gentle colours, creating a large, immersive video sculpture on the Prison Yard, animating the D Hall prison cells, and projecting a giant mural on the Parade Ground. Pipilotti Rist’s first exhibition in Hong Kong will allow visitors to experience the artist’s signature “virtual hug” of sounds, colours, and moving images that has so charmed audiences of all ages around the world, from New York (New Museum; Museum of Modern Art) to Kyoto (The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto), Los Angeles (Museum of Contemporary Art) to Sydney (Museum of Contemporary Art).
Rist’s oeuvre has long explored the possibilities of video in offering alternative visions of reality and utopia, of humans in nature, and of the relationship between the body (especially the female body) and the digital. Her works allow us to see in different ways—sweeping views, close-ups, even inside the body—while giving us a better understanding of how the aesthetics of the camera work with our whole physical being. Drawn to connections between the exterior and the interior, the artist is particularly fascinated by the intermediaries and interfaces that link the two: the camera lens, skin, and membranes of the eye. While such interfaces certainly offer indexicality for the recorded or registered image, they also blur, contort, and reshape it, which in turn opens up a creative space of speculation, reverie, and play. It is this liminal, ambivalent state that has inspired the title of the exhibition, “Behind Your Eyelid”, and which invites viewers to dive into the realm of moving images for new ways of experiencing the world. In doing so, viewers will be able to glimpse new visions with regards to personal expression, the politics of the body, and the vibrant colours of life and nature. At once comforting and humorous, yet served up with an edge, Rist’s mesmerising installations prompt joy and meditative introspection, experiences that are best when shared.
“We are privileged, after the very successful summer exhibition with Takashi Murakami, to showcase another spectacular large-scale exhibition by such an iconic artist at Tai Kwun Contemporary, not only presenting some of Pipilotti Rist’s history-making installations but also many new productions,” said Tobias Berger, curator of Behind Your Eyelid—Pipilotti Rist.
“An exhibition of the scale, complexity, and vision of Behind Your Eyelid is a major commitment for any contemporary art institution and has been in preparation for more than three years,” added Timothy Calnin, Director of Tai Kwun Arts. “As with all of Tai Kwun’s programming in arts and heritage, this signature event would not have been possible without the unwavering support of The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, who provides the core funding of the exhibition, for which we are immensely grateful. We are also very pleased to welcome our newest corporate patron Indosuez Wealth Management, whose support as Lead Sponsor of Behind Your Eyelid enhances our ability to realise the full scope and ambition of this intriguing, joyous, and uplifting summer show.”
幻彩巨膜 (Big Skin)
Newly created for this exhibition, Big Skin presents a sensorial environment that draws real footage and 3-D animation and fragments them in real space. “You walk through or under the work, and see some bits and pieces of skin hoisted up in the air and then dissolving,” the artist explains. Of particular note is the special new material of these semi-translucent “skins”: sanded on one side, the material catches video projections in mid-air, in shapes that break beyond the horizontal and the vertical—creating an experience of images “floating” in space.
水虎彩膏 (Water Tiger Colour Balm)
This new site-specific work on Tai Kwun’s Prison Yard presents circular projections from dusk to late in the evening. Given the historic context, one might imagine a certain surveillance of the yard. However, for the artist, the work really constitutes an “electronic bonfire”, caressing visitors and passers-by; by interrupting one’s evening routine and offering a different way of seeing and looking, visitors will be prompted to pause and contemplate their surroundings in a new way. For the artist, the slowly moving lights will take us out of our bubbles and bring us together—and in a way, transforming the Prison Yard into a glade in the city.
像素森林 香港中環奧卑利街大館3樓 (Pixel Forest 3rd Floor Tai Kwun Old Bailey Road Central HK)
A “Pixel Forest” of 3000 hand-sculpted LED lights suspended from the ceiling welcomes visitors to the exhibition. Wandering through the installation, viewers might imagine being inside an exploding screen of pixels, or submerged in a marine forest among bubbles of light trapped in sea grass. Examined closely, each light is revealed to be handmade and distinct, like corals or crystals—or “frozen labias,” smiles Pipilotti Rist, making a serious point about female visual representation. At a slight distance, the larger moving picture appears: colourful waves and patterns flicker and shift in precise sequences, as though the viewer is on a magical journey inside a video.
Sip My Ocean
Sip My Ocean invites immersion in a watery world, this time a dreamy, underwater wonderland ruled by primal forces. There is the push and pull of waves in the Red Sea, saturated with colours and sunlight, as toy objects and bodies float and fall. There are occasional glimpses of a man, but there is mainly the artist in a bikini.
Shimmering with joy, Sip My Ocean reflects the artist’s state of mind while shooting the video: “I found the corals so full of humour that I burst out laughing. I was bursting with ideas—about evolution, about everything.” Yet is there trouble in paradise? First singing and then screaming Chris Isaak’s seductive ballad “Wicked Game” (No, I don't wanna fall in love…), the artist could be alluding to loss and heartbreak—and perhaps even to the bleached corals she found upon her return years later: This world is only gonna break your heart…In this sense, her screaming might even be re-imagined as a call to action in fighting for sustainability.
Ever Is Over All
Brimming with a carefree sense of anarchy, Ever Is Over All shows a woman striding down the pavement in red shoes, holding a large flower in her hand. She sashays merrily along—then nonchalantly takes a sudden swing with the flower, smashing the window of a parked car. She strides on, and shatters the window of the next car, and the next. At one point a policewoman who smiles and nods passes her. For the artist, a magical, utopian dimension opens up, where rules are inverted and flowers mightier than cars, where it becomes possible to glimpse the “criminal power of beauty”. As with Sip My Ocean, the influence of both video art and music videos is clear. But as the artist observes, “Music videos are made to sell records, whereas I’m freed from doing that.” Considering her power to unleash the aesthetic promise of music videos, it is perhaps no surprise that this work possibly later inspired Beyoncé’s mischievous rampage in her 2016 music video “Hold Up”.
靈魂之光 (Soul Lights)
The moment you arrive at 2/F floor of the gallery, you notice the natural light, filtered by the tinted windows of the entire glass façade. The atmosphere is joyous, certainly, but pay attention to the subtle effects: Your sense of space has likely changed. Colours have taken on a different, possibly disorientating tone. As the light shifts from early morning to afternoon to evening, you will sense the mood shifting, too. The artist notes: “Colour is underestimated, colour is borderless, it’s dangerous, it’s emotional, like music.” As something both sensed and measurable, the colours we perceive balance meaning and chaos. Be sure to look for one of Pipilotti Rist’s major works, Selbstlos im Lavabad (Selfless In The Bath Of Lava), inserted into the floor.
Taking up the entire room, The Apartment recreates a shared living space where moving images dance with objects—putting the “living” back into the “living room,” the artist quips. Like Das Zimmer, the spaces in art institutions are envisioned as shared spaces. Visitors can take a seat at the dining table, lie on the bed, or immerse themselves in the videos. The assortment of items has been plucked from different places, periods of time, and social backgrounds: “It’s like a collective apartment, it’s a global mix,” says the artist, “with the same criteria I have in my work: having some love for any object.” For this exhibition in Hong Kong, she has added a scholar’s rock to the mix: “The stone has to have some intrinsic quality, it has to be a beautiful piece in itself,” she says. “I have learnt that it becomes a helper in contemplation and focus, seeing and imagining a world in miniature, a landscape in miniature.”
Much of Pipilotti Rist’s artistic practice experiments with breaking video out of the frame into a physical space, and Sleeping Pollen continues this, with a twist. The mirrored spheres with the projected images of herbs and flora invite you to join in the work, conjuring the orbs as “dreams spinning slowly in the air”. With the work situated in the historic prison cells of D Hall in Tai Kwun, the artist imagines the isolated prisoners and loneliness they may face.
Gnadenschaf & Clever Yuji (Sheep of Mercy & Smart Yuji)
Expanding on Tai Kwun’s seasonal wall art project 55 Squared, the Swiss media artist Pipilotti Rist presents two evocative works on the Parade Ground. On the left is a still called Sheep of Mercy, fantastically depicting a flock of sheep superimposed onto the middle of the stamen of a tulip blossom. In the artist’s culture, “sheep” contains a complex set of symbolic connotations: “innocence”, “sacrifice”, as well as “blind obedience”.
Extending from the tulip to the right side is the photographic work Clever Yuji, which portrays the endless creativity and poetry innate in children. The child is calling his mother who in turn captures his escape inside the tulip—to a wondrous world of possibilities in the subconscious and imagination.
Over the course of the exhibition, Tai Kwun Contemporary will also host a wide range of public programming and educational events. These include Tai Kwun Conversations with Pipilotti Rist (in person at Tai Kwun); a Pipilotti Rist’s Choice evening, featuring the artist’s favourite films/videos; pixel mapping and lighting workshops; Teacher’s Morning and Teacher’s Workshop; curator’s tours and other guided public tours. Of particular interest to families with children will be the Kids’ Opening and the Family Day events held throughout the run of the exhibition, while Pipilotti Rist After Hours will offer an exclusive learning experience involving special guest interpreters. The Artists’ Book Library’s curated display—with books by Pipilotti Rist as well as selections from the artist’s own collection—also allows visitors to consider how Rist’s irreverent, playful, and performative sensibility also resonates as art in print. (See appendix)
A special kiosk will also open in the JC Contemporary gallery reception area, where visitors can enjoy artist editions and merchandise. In addition to items such as masks, posters, and prints, Pipilotti Rist will also offer exhibition-related merchandise in the form of capsule toys, which will include pins, badges, sticky tape, glass cleaning cloths, and more!
Tickets to the exhibition is available on Klook (https://www.klook.com/activity/74469). HK$88 for general tickets and HK$65 for concession tickets (Full-time students with ID, people with disabilities, and senior citizens over the age of 60).
Tickets will also be available at the JC Contemporary reception: HK$95 (general) and HK$75 (concession).
Family tickets are also available: HK$280 for 2 adult tickets and 2 concession tickets.
For more details about the exhibition, various activities, and ticketing information, visit: www.taikwun.hk/pipilotti
Lead Sponsor: Indosuez Wealth Management
Behind Your Eyelid—Pipilotti Rist
Curator: Tobias Berger
3 August – 27 November 2022
Tuesday – Thursday 10 am – 8 pm
Friday – Saturday 11 am – 9 pm
Sunday 10 am – 8 pm
(Closed on Mondays)
On site: HK$95 (Adults) | HK$75 (Concession)
Online: HK$88 (Adults) | HK$65 (Concession)
About Pipilotti Rist
Pipilotti Rist, a pioneer of spatial video art, was born in 1962 in Grabs, Switzerland, located in the Rhine Valley on the Austrian border, and has been a central figure within the international art scene since the mid-1980s. From her earliest video works to more recent large-scale moving-image installations, Pipilotti Rist’s highly immersive, deeply sensual, and remarkably insightful works wrap visitors in a virtual hug of sounds, colours, and moving images. Her mesmerising installations prompt meditative introspection along with joy and exhilaration, opening up explorations of the body and the image, of exterior environments and interior mindscapes.
Since 1984, Rist has displayed her work in an extensive array of solo and group exhibitions. Major solo exhibitions include Big Heartedness, Be My Neighbor at The Geffen Contemporary, MOCA, 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); Åbn min Lysning. Open my Glade at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark (2019); Sip My Ocean at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2017 – 2018); Pixel Forest at New Museum, New York (2016 – 2017); and Your Saliva is My Diving Suit of the Ocean of Pain at Kunsthaus Zürich (2016). Rist has also participated in numerous biennales, including the Venice Biennale (1997, 1999, 2011), Biennale of Sydney (2000, 2008, 2014), and the Istanbul Biennale (1997, 2000, 2007).