I Want My PipiTV: Be Like Pipi

In part 2 of 2, MARTIN SPELLERBERG uses Pipilotti Rist as a jumping off point for a discussion of the promise of art-video, defining an audience, and where the medium should head.
ART, 05/29/2K: MANIFESTO Before I came to college I had no idea there was any such thing as art video, let alone any notion that it would be any different from the things I’d grown up with: movies, video games, television and music videos. But then I found out there was a whole history of stuff that had been made then discussed then written about, all produced with home movie cameras and all very much connected to the politics of its time and the progression of an art history.

“Ok,” I said, “if this is the way it is this is the way it is” and I tried to soak it all in. I learned to appreciate the qualities of video that separate it from other media and I lost my urge to make everything look like a Hype Williams (the director of Puff Daddy music videos with a budget of $1 million plus) production. Certain boredom became commonplace when watching works of art and I tried to remind myself that I just wasn’t “getting it.”

But then Pipilotti Rist came along, with her refusal to drop the visual sensibilities she loves just because they’re not considered “serious,” and reawakened me to how much fun video could be. I know it’s really easy to say, and really hard to put into practice, but I yearn to have her innocent, playful approach; to simultaneously sit on both sides of the fence and to do so as effortlessly as to dodge critics from both sides. In what I’ve read, everyone always talks about people hating her MTVnes, but no one really seems to feel that way themselves.

There should be no difference between good music videos and good art videos. Art videos, especially when derivative or worse, uninspired, are terminally boring. Pop music is designed to be anything but. Sure, one is meant to sell a record and the other tries to find a truth somewhere, but really, both can learn from the other. I’m not even arguing for pop music in art videos (that’s kind of silly), what I’m arguing for is the erasing of the line between pop and art. I hate video art that is so self-referential that it takes a lifetime of art-history research to understand.

Video is your television, video is your camcorder. If advertising spots have the ability to change your buying habits, video has the ability to change the way you relate to the people and events in your life. What we need is not work that is true to itself, we need work that is true to its audience; an audience bigger than the local (international) art-video scene. Don’t preach to the converted; preach to the PlayStation kids who know nothing but Gap ads and celebrity posturing.

I enjoy in Pipilotti’s work her own personal presence and performance for the camera. As hard as I try, I can’t seem to get away from starring in most of my own tapes! It seems to me that making a video is usually about telling someone something, and if it’s something personal and serious, the way to say it is to stand there, in front of them, and say it in the best way you can. In “I’m Not The Girl Who Misses Much” she said it by wiggling around the screen and in “Ever Is Over All” she said it by walking down the street smashing windows, but either way she leant it an authenticity by offering herself as the reference point.

I also really like it that she seems to enjoy being in the videos, and being the star. Countless hours of TV-babysitting have engrained a celebrity worship deep within my psyche and the desire to be the one up on the screen is inevitably one of the things that is driving “new” forms of media such as video and the internet. In the same way I’m pissed-off by celebrities who want to be in pictures or make pop music but hate the fame, it makes me glad to see her up there, having the time of her life, excelling in the spotlight and doing her serious work. I once heard it said that artists make something, then critics tell them what they’ve made. But it seems with the drive to be a responsible media artist there is the desire to know all the intricacies of a video project before its inception, with not enough joy in the object (the memory of the video tape) itself. Video is, technically, dead easy: you push the red button. It’s also cheap. It should be fun and rewarding to make videos and it should be fun and rewarding to watch them.

I see in Pippilotti Rist, not the answer, but a step in the right direction. As enjoyable as “Ever Is Over All” is, it didn’t change my outlook on life as much as PBS does on a regular basis. I do not believe that one has to “dumb down” a concept for a mass audience and I think a really good piece of art can be powerful to anyone who has the general knowledge of the culture in which it was produced. I’ve tried to implement these things in my work but have yet to capture her magical balance. But, at any rate, now I know what my goal is and what it looks like and, as GI Joe once told me, knowing is half the battle.





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