Saturday, January 10, 2009

Went to check out the exhibit Pour Your Body Out (7354 Cubic Meters) by Pipilotti Rist (one of the missus's favorites) at MOMA today. There's three immense wall video projections and in the centre of the room a gigantic circular sofa in the shape of an iris. You have to take your shoes off to enter that area. In the middle of the iris sofa--the pupil I guess--there's an enclosed carpeted area. This makes for a great holding pen for kids, who frolic with cushions in cute shapes like starfish. With the children and toddlers romping, and parents able to relax and pay attention to the artwork for once, lolling out on this huge comfy couch and getting lost in the visuals, it's already quite a halcyon vibe. And that suits the imagery on the screens: a dreamy, intensely colourful mélange of fruit, soil, flowers, puddles ... underwater sequences... a meadow through which a wild boar snuffles before sinking his fangs into a rotted apple at the foot of a tree, a naked girl likewise crawling through the grass before sinking her teeth into a not-rotted apple (probably bought at the Swiss equivalent of Sainsburys and placed there carefully).... petals being crushed under the wheels of a wheelbarrow, petals folded like rolls of ham and inserted in the girl's nostrils... and ooh look, an earthworm, still crumby with dirt, crawling over a nipple.

I guess the idea here is kinda similar to that Siouxsie & the Banshees song that goes "she's got green fingers" or "The Garden of Earthly Delights" by United States of America, except less witchy and menacing ("omnivorous orchids" etc). Indeed it's all quite wholesome and eco-feminist: the plaque outside the installation says Rist wants this work to provide the viewer with "spiritual vitamins", and she invites patrons to do stretches, "pour your body out of your hips". Singing is encouraged. Anyway, very enjoyable, although all the fruit made me hungry.

And there's this music playing, the only sub-par bit really, an endless looped sequence of wishy-washy ambient. Suddenly I flash on what this all reminds me of: Telepathic Fish and their ambient tea parties; lying on mattresses chilling out to chill out music.

In fact Rist's superlush imagery is ever so slightly redolent of the color-saturated, hypergloss photographs of plants, tree frogs,tropical birds, reptiles etc on the front of CDS by the nu-ambient labels T:me / Em:t. Even a bit Buggy G. Riphead.

It got me thinking about that era of "electronic listening music", wondering whether it would ever be reappraised or come back into favour. Friendsound blog has been posting some stuff from Fax and adjacent swathes of Nineties electronica, but it's a period of music that's never really talked about much these days.

Really, it only had a year, maybe slightly longer: the latter part of '92, all of '93. Then there was a big backlash: I remember Mixmaster "lie down and be counted" Morris's Global Chillage getting a right pasting in the Wire. The sharper ELM operators moved sharpish to a darker brand of ambient (isolationism) or got more difficult/tricksy-sounding/Autechre-y i.e. closer to what we generally think IDM is. Drum 'n' bass had came along to steal its thunder (and persuaded a lot of ELM-ers to go up the path of breakbeat science). I suppose the problem with a lot of that early electronic listening music is that it's too pretty, too pleasant. Still, I felt half-a-yen to dig out of some of that stuff, like Beaumont Hannant's Texturology, although I suspect that went in one of the purges.

Rist should really do Pour Your Body Out at the next Big Chill I reckon.

Here's a youtube of it

and here's another one that has the curator discussing it plus lots of different sections of the image-flow