Embracing new perspectives of body and reality in Tai Kwun’s latest exhibition

Swiss visual artist, Pipilotti Rist, once said her goal is to free images from flat screens. Her fascination with colour and close-up imagery of nature, surfaces and skin are brought out of its frame – opening doors into a whole new world of beauty and possibility. 

In her first-ever solo exhibition at Tai Kwun, Behind Your Eyelid – Pipilotti Rist, 40 works are featured spanning her 30-year career. Capturing different images representing the body and outside world, visitors are invited to dive into her installations – constructing their own ideas about reality themselves.

The Value talked to curator, Tobias Berger, to find out more about the exhibition.

Swiss visual artist, Pipilotti Rist

So, why was Rist chosen for this exhibition?

Inspired by and following her work for around 20 years, Berger explains that it was the right exhibition for the right place.

“Hong Kong has gone through a lot in the last two, three years. So, I wanted to have an uplifting exhibition, but still smart and critical. Something that is hugging you, but also has a place with different ideas of body and emancipation – how we perceive reality,” Berger said.

Tai Kwun is a historical venue that blends old and new historical buildings 

Plastic objects leading visitors onto the exhibition's third floor 

Having taken two and a half years to create this exhibition, the curator added that it was tailored to the bustling city and the historical venue of Tai Kwun, a former police station.

Berger was impressed with her knowledge. “Very rarely have I met an artist so well-informed about the space she is exhibiting in. She did a lot of reading, studying, and watching about Hong Kong – such as its society and urban planning,” he said. Berger added that Rist also added unique elements that represented Hong Kong – such as the scholar’s stone in The Apartment, which was bought on Hollywood Road.

Working together, the curator and artist thought about the visitor movement. Although Pixel Forest is the exhibition's highlight, Berger suggests visitors to start from the third floor and making their way down first checking out the section called Innocent Collection. Adorned with plastic objects, these are what Rist calls plastic diamonds – things that everyone sees and throws away everyday. But most importantly, the wall challenges visitors to look at their surroundings in a different way. 

Comprising of many plastic bottles, Berger wants to use every day materials to encourage visitors to see things in more detail 

Together, both the artist and curator wanted to push the boundaries of an art exhibition.

“The beauty with Pipilotti [Rist] is what people normally understand as interactivity. You push a button, and something happens. Pipilotti [Rist] and I share this view that this is a very individual and lonely experience – it’s always you against the machine. While her works are much more embracing, you can participate in them with multiple people. It’s a much more interconnecting project,” he said. 

Pixel Forest's changing colours makes the audience think about what the LEDs collectively represent

Created in 2016, Pixel Forest is really the introductory piece. Having collaborated with light designer Kaori Kuwabara, Pixel Forest has 3,000 LED lights hanging from the ceiling representing pixels of light. The lights often change colours and viewers are invited to walk through them.

Wandering through the installation, viewers can imagine being inside an exploding screen of pixels, or submerged in a marine forest amongst bubbles of light trapped in sea grass. Examined closely, each light is revealed to be handmade and distinct – as if crystals, flowers or even a coral garden. 

Rist's Sip My Ocean (1996) is a two-channel video projection of everyday life in a different perspective

Mirroring across the corner of a room, Sip My Ocean shows fragments of a man and a woman in a salmon dress and a yellow bikini swimming underwater and images of sinking teacups, television sets toys, floating plants, and coral.

The music and lyrics cover American singer, Chris Isaak’s song Wicked Game (1990). A voice is heard singing and finally screaming “I don’t want to fall in love.” Interwoven with the imagery, the lyrics are played hypnotically with the music – morphing in and out of the corner like the ebb and flow of the tide. The work’s title suggestive of the body and the ocean demonstrating how Rist’s work can blend the intimate and the universal.

I'm Not The Girl Who Misses Much (1986) is shown on a LED screen, rather than its original television form

Central Hong Kong Chandelier (2021)

One of her first works as an art student in 1986, I’m Not the Girl Who Misses Much, shows the Swiss artist clad in a low-cut black dress – enthusiastically dancing and chanting a song adapted from The Beatles’ song, Happiness is a Warm Gun (1968).

Written by John Lennon about second wife, Yoko Ono, the song begins with “She’s not a girl who misses much.” The speed, colour and texture of the images are manipulated. The voice shifts from high-pitched hysteria into a low moan and the images are cast with red and blue shadows.


The Central Hong Kong Chandelier is found alongside Big Skin installation 

Newly created for Big Skin, Rist used different materials she could produce on – for example, using multi-coloured underwear to produce chandeliers. Visitors can walk through or under the work – seeing some bits and pieces of skin hoisted up in the air and then dissolving. The special new material of these semi-translucent “skins”: sanded on one side, the material catches video projections in mid-air, in shapes that break beyond the horizontal and the vertical.

Alongside this work, there is a sensorial environment that draws real footage and three-dimensional animation and fragments them in real space. Continuing the artist’s attempt to break videos out from the screen to walls, ceilings, and floors, this entirely new experience “float” images in the space, evoking display and exhibition practices of the future.

Ever Is Over All depicts a young lady walking down the street in a joyous mood before smashing windows

One of the artist’s first works to break free from the television monitor, Ever Is Over All is projected onto two-channel video. On one screen, a young woman in turquoise dress and sparkling red shoes is depicted walking down a street and casually smashing the windows of parked cars with a large-stemmed flower. On the second screen, a lush field of poker flowers.

This interaction and the uplifting mood of the video while the audience watches something being destroyed points at the surreal elements of the video. For the artist, a magical utopian dimension opens, where rules are inverted and flowers mightier than cars.

The Apartment welcomes visitors to immerse themselves with images whilst standing up, sitting down or lying down 

Taking up the entire room, The Apartment recreates a shared living space where moving images dance with objects – putting the “living” back into the “living room”.

The spaces in art institutions are envisioned as shared spaces. Visitors can take a seat at the sofa or dining table, lie on the bed, or immerse themselves in the videos. The assortment of items has been plucked from different places, periods of time, and social backgrounds.

After visiting the exhibition, Berger hopes that visitors can leave as a happier and more attentive people – those who look at the small things and the world in a different way as to when they arrived at the exhibition. And he is positive that is happening.  

Exhibition curator, Tobias Berger

Exhibition Details:

Behind Your Eyelid – Pipilotti Rist
Venue: JC Contemporary, Tai Kwun, 10 Hollywood Road, Central
Date and Time: Until 27 November 2022 | Sunday-Thursday: 10am – 8pm, Friday-Saturday: 11am – 9pm, Closed on Mondays 

Exhibition Website: https://www.taikwun.hk/en/programme/detail/behind-your-eyelid-pipilotti-rist/1035
On-site: HK$95 (Adult), HK$75 (Concession)*
Online: HK$88 (Adult), HK$65 (Concession)*
*Concession ticket for full time students, people with disabilities and senior citizens aged 60 or above
Pre-registration is required