It took greater than two years to make “Sip My Ocean.” The underwater scenes have been filmed within the Purple Sea, in Egypt, with a water-proof wide-angle digicam that had solely not too long ago come in the marketplace. “I longed to film coral reefs, and the first time we snorkeled in the Red Sea I had to come up quickly because I couldn’t stop laughing,” she remembers. “What an abundance of endlessly different forms and colors!” (They’re partly gone now, owing to local weather change.) Though the video preceded “Ever Is Over All” by a yr, it confirmed extra clearly the place Rist’s work was headed, and its affect has been larger. “ ‘Sip My Ocean’ changed my curatorial practice,” Klaus Biesenbach, a former director of MOMA PS1, who now directs the Los Angeles Museum of Up to date Artwork, informed me. “I looked at videos differently after seeing it, and I looked at color differently.” Joan Jonas, an older video artist whose work Rist reveres, usually confirmed the video to college students when she taught at M.I.T. “The lightness, motion, weightlessness, gravity, melancholy, and levitation reminded them perhaps of flying carpets, winged horses, genies, carousels, or, in Rist’s words, ‘the glory of life,’ where ‘worry will vanish,’ ” Jonas wrote, in a list essay.
Rising up in a small village within the canton of St. Gallen, near the borders of Austria and Liechtenstein, Rist most popular to make her personal preparations with the world. Her given names, Elisabeth Charlotte, didn’t swimsuit her. She longed to be a boy, and in main college, the place she was usually nicknamed Lotti, she referred to as herself Elisabeth John for some time, after which Pierre. A couple of of her classmates took to calling her Pipi, after Pippi Longstocking, the mythically sturdy and fiercely impartial heroine of Astrid Lindgren’s kids’s e-book collection, which had been reborn as a well-liked Swedish tv collection. “That of course made me proud,” she mentioned. (It additionally elevated the variety of moms who wouldn’t let their kids play together with her.) Born in 1962, Rist was the second of 5 kids (older sister, youthful brother, and youthful twin sisters, all of whom nonetheless reside in Switzerland and see each other usually). She was the one one to attend highschool and school. “The others went to apprenticeships instead,” she defined. Ursula, the firstborn, takes care of aged folks of their houses; Tom labored as a waiter and a prepare dinner, and now owns and runs a bar in Zurich referred to as Helsinki; one in every of her twin sisters, Andrea, is a photographer, and the opposite, Tamara, is a seamstress, who usually helps on Pipi’s video tasks. “For me, it was very clear,” Rist mentioned. “I was a good student, and being a good student was the one thing that could make my father pay attention.” Not a whole lot of consideration, although. Her father, who died six years in the past, by no means appeared to acknowledge that she had turn out to be an internationally recognized artist. As a lifelong stamp collector, nevertheless, he was deeply impressed when she was requested to design a stamp for the Swiss postal service.
Each her mother and father have been from working-class households in St. Gallen, and each had damaged precedent by selecting professions. Walter Pius Rist was a health care provider. For the primary six years of Pipi’s life, they lived within the mountains, the place Walter’s sufferers have been primarily Italian laborers, constructing dams for electric-power stations. His spouse, Anna, was the one instructor in a one-room college for forty-five college students. Pipi remembers “endless green-brown alpine fields with manifold flowers and vivid little brooks melting holes in snow blocks—also skiing between my parents’ legs.” When Tom was born, they moved from the mountains to the village of Grabs, within the Rhine Valley, the place her mom had grown up, after which to neighboring Buchs. “My mother was such a strong lion, very generous and giving,” Rist mentioned. “She brought us up to look after others, and she always said if someone did something we liked we should go quickly and make a compliment. On holidays, she had us bring bread and butter and honey to all the neighbors. I thought that was a cool thing. My father was a depressed person, who always had a new partner”—that’s, a mistress. “My parents’ marriage made me swear I would never marry,” she mentioned. Each her mother and father have been freethinkers. “My father liked outsiders better than Swiss people, and considered Africans more beautiful and intelligent than we are,” she mentioned. He was additionally a devoted environmentalist, who stopped heating the household swimming pool as a result of it used an excessive amount of power. One summer season, Pipi, feeling sad and misunderstood, spent a number of nights sleeping within the empty pool, and going to her grandparents’ home for meals.
Her mother and father separated, amicably, when she was sixteen—her father moved to the home subsequent door, the place he had his medical follow and acquired his mistresses, and Anna and the kids remained within the household residence. That yr, Pipi fell in love with a boy in her college named Thomas Rhyner. “Pipi was one class behind me, and the only other person in the village who admired John Lennon and Yoko Ono,” Rhyner recollects. Music was their shared introduction to common tradition. Second-string English rock bands (by no means the Beatles) used to return and play at a corridor simply over the border in Liechtenstein, and Anna, newly launched from her marriage, would usually let the musicians keep in a single day at her home. “To this day,” Rist informed me, “if my mother sees a backpacker who looks a bit lost, she will say, ‘Do you want to stay with us?’ ”
Rist left residence in 1982, and spent 4 years on the College of Utilized Arts, in Vienna. Swiss artists have historically gone elsewhere to study and follow their craft—Paul Klee to Munich, Alberto Giacometti and Jean Tinguely to Paris, Urs Fischer to Amsterdam and New York. However Rist had no intention of changing into an artist, business or in any other case. She needed to get out of Switzerland and to check physics, which had been her strongest topic in highschool, and he or she needed to take action in a German-speaking nation. The college in Vienna, whose program was closely influenced by Bauhaus inclusiveness, provided all kinds of programs within the sciences and the humanities. She took theoretical physics and philosophy, studied illustration, images, and business artwork, and have become fascinated with experimental cinema—the poetic, extremely private movies of Norman McLaren, Stan VanDerBeek, John Waters, and others. Rist made a number of brief movies in Tremendous 8, and ultimately determined that she needed to work with shifting photos and sound and language.
After graduating, in 1986, she returned to Switzerland and registered for video lessons on the Faculty of Design, in Basel. She selected video as a result of it allowed her to do every thing herself, from camerawork to enhancing. To pay for her research, she took part-time jobs with Ciba-Geigy and Hoffmann-La Roche, the massive Swiss chemical corporations, which maintained well-equipped labs the place they made promotional movies. This put her in touch with present applied sciences. Each new know-how appeared to return outfitted with a man, a male techie who knew the best way to use it and saved the information to himself, however on the Ciba-Geigy lab Rist labored for an older man named Erhard Hauswirt, who had been a filmmaker. He sensed her ambition and expertise, and let her use the lab at night time. She kind of taught herself the best way to function the tools, and in 1986 she made a seven-minute video that launched her profession. It was referred to as “I’m Not the Girl Who Misses Much.”
The title is a barely altered model of the opening line in John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s tune “Happiness Is a Warm Gun,” which was impressed by Yoko Ono and launched on the Beatles’ “White Album,” in 1968. “Lennon sings, ‘She’s not a girl who misses much,’ and I used to walk on the street singing that like a mantra, like a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Rist recollects. In her video, carrying a low-cut black costume and dancing so maniacally that her breasts hold spilling out of it, she turns the road right into a first-person anthem of gutsiness. She sings it repeatedly, in a comfortable, little-girl voice that shifts to falsetto, constructing to a sort of out-of-control hysteria that’s hilarious and disturbing. Rist knew that it was past something she’d ever executed. She mentioned, “When I found how to speed up and slow down, I realized, Wow, this really shows how our lives are sometimes, when you feel like a puppet. I felt I had found something that had a general meaning.” She despatched the video to the Solothurn Movie Competition, in Switzerland, the place it was accepted, “and I guess you can say it was well received.”