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7.th december 2005
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Interview: Pipilotti Rist, part 2 - on colours and video as a media
Pia Strandbygaard Frandsen continues the interview with Pipilotti Rist. In this second part Pipilotti Rist tells more about her use of colours and her thoughts about the saturated colour scale that is so characteristic of her art. Pia also asks Pipilotti about her year log dedication to the video as a media.

Text: Pia Strandbygaard Frandsen
Photo: Courtesy of Pipilotti Rist

This article is the third in the theme about Pipilotti Rist and the second part out of 4 of the interview with the artist.
Selfless In The Bath Of Lava, 1994 Video still

Your videos are very vivid and colourful. It makes me think about the Technicolor of the 1930’ies or the Wizard of Oz with its intense scale of colours. Which significance do the colours have in your work and how do you use them?

Pipilotti: As I said before [in the chapter home as a motif] real life is colourful, but when you work with normal videotape or photo it’s always less colourful than life. We think this is correct and if someone creates something as colourful as life, we think it is exaggerated. Reproduction technique always relates to our skin. Working with 35 mm the main task in the developing process is to make sure that white skin does not look colourful, because if it looks a little bit greenish or bluish - it looks ill. The basic idea is that the human being should not look ill on film.
Especially this work is very influenced by closing one’s eyes. If you look at the light and then close your eyes and concentrate it is extremely colourful, isn’t it?

Pia: Yes, and there are also other colours, ‘after images’... 

Pipilotti: Yes. When we close our eyes, our brain often relates more to language and memories etc. – we are not really here. So the whole idea of meditation, where you try to be in the moment and not think ‘Oh, I forgot to buy this and I should do that’, forget all that and really concentrate on what you see in the moment. These pictures, after burns etc. are a thousand times more colourful, than I will ever be able to show.

Mother, Son & The Holy Garden, 2003, video installation.
Photo: Käthe Walser
  Mother, Son & The Holy Garden, 2003, video still from the installation

Pia: So the intense colours are both something that exists in reality, but on the other hand the colours also let in other levels of meaning like the imaginary for instance?

Pipilotti: Exactly. Subconscious, the multi layers we have, and most of the cultural expressions we have, music, paintings, try to show our inner world. Secondly it tries to come out of our skin, to make a proposition. If I propose you how I see it and you recognize yourself in it, in that second we are not anymore alone. To overcome isolation is probably the main motivation for all cultural expression and also to ad a tiny bit to the evolution because our brain is still in development.

Pia: You have worked very persistently with video. Why is it still interesting for you to work with video and moving pictures?

Pipilotti: I can keep the production process in my own hands and it is not so labour divided as film from the whole financial structure. You can work more experimental. I work with a lot of garbage. I record hours and hours of material, but in the end I only use very small extracts. This working style would not be possible in film. Video includes all interests I have: sound, movement...

Pia: In classic film theory the camera is said to have a special ability to penetrate reality, and to depict other levels of reality – the imaginary, emotions - things, which you cannot see with your bare eyes. Do you see similar possibilities in your work with the camera?

TV Chandelier, 1993, audio/video installation, Stampa, Basel
Photo: Walter/Spehr
  Show A Leg, 2001, audio/video installation, Tramway, Glasgow
Photo: Ruth Clark

Pipilotti: Yes, I totally agree. But it is different levels, different working steps. There is the moving of the camera - where I am always very aware that the object and the subject of the camera should be on the same power level. Then there is how you cut, the slow motion and the adding of colour to get closer to reality. With the camera you always loose a lot and you have to make it up with the postproduction so that you can come closer. But I would agree that it is also a very irrational thing. Your thoughts and your mood is always visible in movement. When I work with the camera I always have some technique where I would say ‘I glorify this, I glorify this, I glorify...’ and I cannot stop to breathe. I agree this is beyond rational thinking.    

Pia: So you also use the camera to express things that have to do with emotions or the irrational and not only to record the physical world?

Pipilotti: Yes. Because reality is always 10 % and the rest we make up anyway.

Pia: Could you tell a little about the significance of the video projections in Daggrystimer i naboens hus – Dawn Hours in the Neighbour’s House

Pipilotti: The video projection is at the sliding door. In a way you look into the next room. Originally I had still pictures in mind. I installed a whole fixed room, but in the end I took it out. I came here with images from a real next door room, but during the editing the last ten days this fell out in favour of moving images. The TV in the installation is only switched on for 1 ½ minute. I am astonished how a TV set in our living room sucks in all life. When we look into this wonder box everything else fades away. I remember my first video installation. I where putting things on the TV set, like a pig’s heart and nobody saw it! [Laughs] They completely ignored the meat on the TV set. I wonder how this box did not come more into our lives. Maybe that needs another generation but the body always goes in this box and so do the living room. That is one of the tasks that I am working on - to free life from this box. This is actually only my second installation with a TV, otherwise I never use TVs in my installations.