In the audio-video installation Cinquante Fifty (Installation for a Parking Lot), 2000, Pipilotti Rist dwells on an incongruous quotidian existence, dominated by disorienting, dreamlike qualities. As if it could fly, challenging every principle of gravity, the artist’s video camera investigates, from various angles, the gray facade of a condominium until it discovers two human presences. Looking out a window, in the typical activity of someone who is trying to escape boredom, the first figure is a middle-aged woman, apparently indifferent to the camera’s movements. In contrast, the second figure, portrayed by the artist herself, is drawn to the video camera’s lens. Like someone in a children’s game, she tries to capture its attention and presses her face against the window, distorting her features. Confined behind the glass, similar to a fish condemned to the isolation of an aquarium, the young woman seems incapable of leaving the boundaries of her apartment. Fleeting images of flowering trees fragment the sequence of the shots. The other protagonist of the installation is a man walking along the edge of a deserted highway. Perhaps heading toward a specific goal, he moves at a rapid pace. Totally engrossed, he seems to notice neither his own nakedness nor the fleeting presence of a car that contains the video camera that is filming him. Hypnotic music, based on the repetition of a few notes, completes the installation, enveloping the isolation of each of the two women and the solitude of the man pictured in the same atmosphere. Initially conceived for the spaces of an underground parking lot, the work was reconfigured by Rist for the setting of Castello di Rivoli, where it is projected directly on the walls and the ceiling, incorporating the architectural details and the original frescoes of the chosen room. In keeping with the artist’s practice of self-appropriation, some of the images that make up the installation also appear in other works, including Remake of the Weekend, 1998, loosely inspired by Godard’s film Weekend, 1967, and the series of installations known as Himalaya Goldstein Stube (Himalaya Goldstein’s Living Room), 1997–99, which revolve around Rist’s alter-ego, known as Himalaya Goldstein.
The creator of psychedelic, sensual, ironic and sometimes erotic universes, Rist utilizes video in a way that expressively heightens its pictorial qualities. As she has frequently stated, her intention is not to use electronic technology to record or imitate reality. Rather, she directs her explorations predominantly at the realms of the unconscious, both personal and technological and favors the use of acid colors and deliberate disturbances or errors in recording. In an open dialogue with both visual and musical popular culture, many of her works draw upon the domestic arena, presenting habitable environments, within which there is an interweaving of a female sensibility, playful elements, and self-reflective components.