21 May 1999

Events Pipilotti Rist


Taped almost entirely underwater, Rist’s video offers a “fish-eye” view of swaying seaweed gardens and coral kingdoms. Wafting sybaritically over the ocean beds, the camera records trajectories of household objects as they sink to the depths of the sea: kitsch coffee mugs with heart-shaped patterns, a bright yellow teapot, a plastic toy truck and an old LP settle into the sand. Schools of tropical fish whizz in and out of this ever-shifting marine vista, while a bikini-clad woman cavorts in the waves. The video is projected in duplicate as mirrored reflections on two adjoining walls, with the corner between them an immobile seam around which psychedelic configurations radiated and swirled. This kaleidoscopic imagery was choreographed to Rist’s cover version of Wicked Game, which she alternately crooned and hysterically shrieked throughout the loop, leaving one to wonder if there might be trouble in Paradise:

  • The River was on fire and no one could save me but you
    Strange what desire will make foolish people do 
    I never dreamed that I’d meet somebody like you
    I never dreamed that I’d lose someone like you
    Oh, I don’t want to fall in love… with you
  • Rist’s saturated, ever-mutating imagery imparts a polymorphous pleasure in the physical. The pervasive sensuality of Sip My Ocean, with its multiple screens and hallucinogenic mirroring effects, suggest the elusive state of jouissance - unadulterated, boundless, pre-Oedipal pleasure. Associated with the female, this metaphoric realm imagines a body with no boundaries a body with multiple and autonomous erotic zones, a body in full possession of its own desire. However, Rist’s erratic vocals – which range from sweetly lyrical to maniacal screaming – disrupt these utopian dreams of total gratification. For desire always demands an “other” one who may or may not yield to the seduction, one who may or may not return the favor. As the soundtrack to this deliriously enchanting waterworld. Rist’s version of Isaak’s tune expresses the dangers (and pleasures) of desire: it also suggests a person trying to maintain control against the rising tides of passion. Sip My Ocean is Rist’s invitation to participate in this game of desire and fulfilment: yet it is also a dare to survive its perilous undertow.
                                                     Nancy Spector on Parkett