Paul Middendorf
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Pipilotti Rist: Art Immersions at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

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Pipilotti Rist, “Pixel Forest,” 2023. Courtesy of The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston


The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston pulls all the stops for its new acquisition and latest of its Summer Art Immersions series with Pixel Forest and Worry Will Vanish. This new exhibition by Swiss artists Pipilotti Rist opened this past weekend, instantly becoming a popular destination for art patrons, professionals, and museum goers. The museum acquired this new installation after its presentation at Kunsthaus Zürich and its record breaking US debut at the New Museum in New York this past fall. “We had to have it,” stated Contemporary Curator Alison de Lima Greene, who described the acquisition process alongside Pipilotti Rist during an intimate preview for press prior to its opening. “We are pleased to welcome these landmark works to their permanent home at the MFAH,” said Director Gary Tinterow. “Pixel Forest and Worry Will Vanish complement the museum’s growing commitment to light-based and immersive art, joining recent examples by James Turrell, Jesús Rafael Soto, and Yayoi Kusama in our collection.”


The two works by Rist transform the museum’s Mies van der Rohe-designed Cullinan Hall into the inner workings of the artist’s mind. Rist bubbled with energy as she made her way through the gathering, engaging everyone there, describing her work and encouraging full participation throughout the installation. She pranced around inside of the environment, took photos of others enjoying the work, as well as enforcing a more hands on approach, asking individuals their thoughts and suggestions on new tangents. De Lima Greene and Rist described the piece as the first installation to present 3000 simultaneous videos in full form and through broken down pixels displayed within the thousands of individual fixtures. As I started into the exhibit, Pipilotti grabbed my shoulders and began to steer me. “Don’t follow them. Make your own way. You can go anywhere,” she said, still pushing me. “Stop here and put your face into the light,” she exclaimed.


Pipilotti Rist, “Pixel Forest,” 2023, and “Worry Will Vanish Dissolution,” 2023. Courtesy of The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston


The specially re-commissioned and site specific exhibition brings together two mesmerizing works newly acquired by the MFAH: Pixel Forest, and Worry Will Vanish.Installation of the new work took a total of 5 weeks total with 3 weeks set aside for Rist and her two assistants. Both videos were specially calibrated to the exact specifications of each wall of which they are projected and every fixture was fabricated for the MFAH installation. The labor of love is ever present as you enter into the several thousand square foot piece. Patrons enter into Pixel Forest and are lead through a chosen path or are encouraged to wander throughout the hanging vines of light and video to enter into the expansive, cushion-covered space. Here the the two-channel video projection wraps around two walls and takes viewers on a dream-like journey through the natural landscape, the human body, and the heavens above. The videos flow through macro moments and sci-fi environments, traveling in and out of the human body, underneath dense vegetation of a fantasy realm, and throughout the stars. The subtle sounds and shifting lighting engulf the viewer as one’s eyes bounce between the video that runs in ten-minute cycles. The accompanying soundtrack, created in collaboration with Anders Guggisberg, offers a lyrical and resonantly textured soundscape, heightening the video’s aura of wonderstruck celebration. It’s an impactful experience and provides so much more than a social media opportunity. The scale alone is impressive and certainly requires the space it has been allotted. One becomes lost and alone with the piece even when there are dozens of viewers present. Having no designated time frame, the installation allows for lengthy contemplation. The importance of time needed to allow for such an installation to sink in and fully absorb the viewer is embraced, thus making the experience seem endless at times.


Pipilotti Rist, “Pixel Forest,” 2023, and “Worry Will Vanish Dissolution,” 2023. Courtesy of The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston


Born in the Rhine Valley, Switzerland, Rist continues to live and work in Zurich. The artist first came to international acclaim through her single-channel videos, including I’m Not The Girl Who Misses Much (1986), and her two-channel projections, such as Ever is Over All (1997). With the piece Das Zimmer (The Room) (1994/2000), Rist began to construct installations in tandem with her videos, and her more recent work increasingly blurs the lines between object, environment, image, and light. Rist has been featured in exhibitions at museums and festivals across Europe, Japan, and the Americas, including biennials in São Paulo, Venice, Istanbul, and the Caribbean. In 2023, Wishing for Synchronicity: Works by Pipilotti Rist, organized by the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, introduced her work to local audiences. In all of her work, her energy and passion for creating is infectious and overwhelmingly tangible.


Curator de Lima Greene explains her first introduction to her powerful and playful moxie-infused works and knew then she needed to work with her. “We are so excited and pleased to be presenting this new work and honored to have once again worked with Pipilotti,” de Lima Greene proclaims before the preview. Since its opening, people have flocked to see Pixel Forest and Worry Will Vanish and experience this vast, immersive environment.


Pipilotti Rist: Pixel Forest and Worry Will Vanish runs from June 11 to September 17, 2023 and is accompanied by a series of talks and additional programming.