Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist’s new exhibition at Hauser & Wirth Somerset shows to brilliant effect the potential and diversity of this new artspace in Bruton.
The exhibition begins outside in the farmyard with washing lines of knickers strung up between the restored buildings, each pair of underpants lit from within by LED lights so that at night they glow like giant fireflys against the black sky.Stay Stamina Stay features two video installations filmed while Rist was in residence at Durslade Farm last year. In the Rhoades Gallery, sheepskin rugs are dotted over the floor encouraging viewers to lie down and fully immerse themselves in the film ‘Mercy Garden’ which is projected in mirrored effect onto two walls.
It’s a meditative, trippy experience lying here listening to the background wash of banjo music and viewing close ups of fingers stroking nettles, hands caressing petals or brushing against barbed wire, lips slowly pursing and washing flapping against a vivid blue sky. The main character is a young, local farmer shown interacting with his environment, each shot in high definition so that even his scraggy fingernails are revealed.
It’s at once mesmeric, uplifting and, I’d predict, a universal crowd pleaser - at the preview two small children were running around the gallery enthralled by the darkness and giant close ups of flowers, earth and sea projected all around them.
The film is designed to celebrate masculine strength combined with fragility and tenderness, yet its underlying message also poses questions about life, death and our relationship to the natural world.
Rist has described Mercy Garden as: “a poem about agriculture, the farmer, his body, his fingers and his machines as an extension of the body’.
In the adjacent Bourgeois Gallery the installation ‘Sleeping Pollen’ is projected through seven mirrored spheres suspended at different heights from the ceiling. Close ups of plants and drifts of pollen revolve slowly against the dark walls. The feeling here is both somnolent and transporting - if there were rugs on the floor here these beautiful, sensual images would surely lull you into a dreamlike state. Rist described Sleeping Pollen as ‘offering the winter plants an electronic bed in a dark cosy room. Their dreams spin slowly in the air’.
Stay Stamina Stay runs until 22 February 2014