Subtle, Feel-good, Feminist video Artists

Introduction

This essay will explore two artists who work within the medium of video. The artists being researched are Swiss Pipilotti Rist and Congolese Michele Magema. The research will include a brief history of the artists careers, an overview of the creative landscapes of which they belong as well as their processes. The essay will reference to stills taken from the videos to portray an overview of the works in progress. For Rist’s video this essay will explore her artwork Ever is Over All, 1997 and Magema’s Interiority Fresco IV. The Kiss of Narcissie (e). 

Body

History of Career – Rist 

Pipilotti Rist was born in 1962 in Grabs, Switzerland. She studied graphic design, illustration and photography at the Institute of Applied Arts in Vienna, as well as audiovisual communications and video at the School of Design in Basel. Rest began working as a graphic designer in Switzerland. She then gained a following in the mid-1980s as a member of the experimental post-punk pop group Les Reines Prochaines, for which she made some of her earliest video works. She now teaches at the University of California and Los Angeles.

She has had solo exhibitions in Spain, Denmark, New York, Geneva, Switzerland, Chicago amongst many other countries. Her group exhibitions include being in the Guggenheim Museum SoHo, New York, Venice, Spain and many other counties and Art Museums too. Rest currently lives in Los Angeles, America and Zurich, Switzerland.(Electronic Arts Intermix )

History of Career – Magema 

Magema was born 1977, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. Magema’s work exists within a matter space of a frontier of France and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Her parents provided her with the authorization to interrogate her own history and that of a nation, her place of birth, as well as the continent of Africa at large. In 1984 she immigrated to Paris and currently still resides there. In 2002 she received her BA in fine arts from l’Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Arts de Clergy (Signs).

She has been a resident artist at Cité Internationale des Arts and has exhibited her work in the Global Feminisms Exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum and at the Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. She has also participated in the Africa Remix exhibition.

Creative landscape – Rist 

Rest has created a series of videos that are music-based, however they subvert the form of the music video to explore the female voice and body in pop cultural representations. The videos merge rock music and performance with electronic manipulation.

Pipilotti Rist explores the themes of female sexuality and media culture through playful and provocative fantasies in the everyday. She pinpoints popular cultures investment of desire within the everyday. Her main theme, fantasy is seen through a dream-like scene and then always brought to reality by ironic humour. Her work has impact and ambiguity because of her use of voyeuristic pleasure and the reminder of the real world.

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Figure 1: Still from Rist’s Ever is Over All. The flower the girl holds easily replicates the shape of a knobkerry/weapon (The Art Desk).

In her artwork, Ever is Over All the video envelops the viewers in two slow-motion projections on adjacent walls. In one a roving camera focuses on red flowers in a field of lush vegetation (MoMa). One the left projection, a woman in a blue dress and ruby slippers strolls down a car-lined street. The fluidity of both scenes is disrupted when the woman violently smashes a row of car windshields with the long-stemmed flower she carries. As the vandal gains momentum with each gleeful strike of her wand, a police officer approaches and smiles in approval, introducing comic tension into this scene.

In the video Rist positively describes negative aspects about femininity. The video has since been appropriated by Beyonce in her lated album Lemonade.The flower reveals the overall shape of the phallic, therefore the ideology of the flower combines femininity and flower-power into an overall feel good video.

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Figure 2: Still from Rist’s Ever is Over All. The police gives an encouraging smile and acneoweldgement and walks on, instead of arresting the vandaliser(Fact).

In the video Rist positively describes negative aspects about femininity. The video has since been appropriated by Beyonce in her lated album Lemonade.The flower reveals the overall shape of the phallic, therefore the ideology of the flower combines femininity and flower-power into an overall feel good video.

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Figure 3: Still from Rist’s Ever is Over All.  This still shows a better view of the phalic shapes within the flowers (Art Orbit).

Creative landscape – Magema

Michèle Magema draws from her experience as a child exiled from her homeland. Today, as she develops her art, Magema examines the history of her people and Congo. Slavery, genocide and internal wars are also a major focus in her work. She explores the themes of her feminine identity displaced through time, memory, and history, reflects an image of a woman with a new identity – one that is totally detached from exoticism. In her video, the text refers to the the myth of Narcissus and Echo a tale of unrequited love and eternal punishment. ‘We shall seek to ascertain the directions of this dual narcissism and the motivations that inspire it’. (Fanon, English translation, 1967: 9-10).

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Figure 4: Still from Interiority Fresco IV. The Kiss of Narcisse(e). Magema is seen on a split screen observing white (colonial) faces on the walls of Paris(Vemo).
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Figure 5: Still from  Interiority Fresco IV. The Kiss of Narcisse(e). Magema is seen on a split screen with a mask over her face and on the other screen walking way into the tunnel she came from.
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Figure 6: Still from Interiority Fresco IV. The Kiss of Narcisse(e). Magema is seen on a split screen kissing the face of the white (colonial) masks in Paris.

 Creative Process – Rist 

Rest says she enjoys video as she works with other professions, such as editors and filming crew to make the artwork, she also enjoys filming and making videos just by herself too. However, usually there are eight people involved in the video.  She says that there is an experimental element to each work and she enjoys being able to use each of the equipment by herself too, so that there is an element of herself in each process of the artwork too.

The audio in Rist’s work is often a simple soundtrack of music. She is also a member in a band, Les Reines Prochaines and can therefore create her own music.

Creative Process – Magema 

Magema makes use of the split screen in many of her videos. As the material of her works are always simple. She uses historical facts that she interprets through the prediction of scenes. Through these frontal images she exposes her body to use it as a metaphor for the relationship between the human being and the world at large. Her work sets up a direct relationship that centered on the world the field of society and politics.

Magema enjoys working on her artworks alone. Often she is the only character in each video and the videos are usually static, meaning that she can leave the camera on a tripod.

The audio in Magma’s video is of classical piano.

Conclusion

This essay has successfully explored the two artists, Pipilotti Rist and Michele Magema. Each artist has given a brief history of their career, Rist was born in Switzerland and currently works there and in Los Angeles, while Magema was born in Congo and now works and lives in Paris. Both artists have studied art and art currently still making works that exhibit all around the world. Both Rist and Magema are interested in the themes of femininity. While Rist explores a fun and humorous side to her videos, Magema has slow and simple shots of repetitive movements. Their processes differ, Rist enjoys working with a crew, while Magema works on all her artworks alone.

4. Reference list

African Digital Art, 2016. The Video Art of Michele Magema. [Online]. Available from – http://africandigitalart.com/2016/01/the-video-artwork-of-michele-magema/. [Accessed on 16 August 2016].
Art Rador, 2014. 10 African Video Artists to know Now. [Online] Available from – http://artradarjournal.com/2014/03/01/10-african-video-artists-to-know-now/. [Accessed on 16 August 2016].
Electronic Arts Intermix ,2016, Pippilotti Rust,  535 West 22nd Street, 5th Flr New York, NY 10011, Available from – http://www.eai.org/artistBio.htm?id=8817 %5BAccessed on 16 August 2016]
MoMa, 2016. Pipilotti Rist Ever is Over All, 1997. [Online] Available from – http://www.moma.org/collection/works/81191. [Accessed on 16 August 2016].
Signs, 2005. Michele Magema – Goodbye Rosa. [Online] Available from – http://signsjournal.org/michele-magema-goodbye-rosa-2005-2005/. [Accessed on 16 August 2016].
Youtube, 2016. Hold up – Beyonce vs Pipilotti Rist. [Online] Available from – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7z3X-zs1vu0. [Accessed on 16 August 2016].
Youtube, 2011. Pipilotti Rist on her working methods. [Online] Available from – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=br1C5ONEt_c. [Accessed on 16 August 2016].
Figure 1: The Art Desk, 2011. Pipilotti Rist, The Eyeball Massage, Hayward Gallery. [Online] Available from – http://www.theartsdesk.com/visual-arts/pipilotti-rist-eyeball-massage-hayward-gallery. [Accessed on 16 August 2016].
Figure 2: Fact, 2016. Ever is Over All. [Online] Available from – http://www.fact.co.uk/projects/pipilotti-rist/ever-is-over-all.aspx. [Accessed on 16 August 2016].

 

Figure 3: Art Orbit, 2012. Pipilotti Rist; Overrated underpants? [Online] Available from – https://artorbit.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/pipilotti-rist/. [Accessed on 16 August 2016].

Figure 4: Vemo, 2012. Michele Magema. [Online] Available from – https://vimeo.com/magema. [Accessed on 16 August 2016].

Figure 5: Galeri Seroleon, 2015. Michele Magema. [Online] Available from – http://galeriasaroleon.com/artista/michèle-magema. [Accessed on 16 August 2016].

Figure 6: Vemo, 2012. Michele Magema. [Online] Available from – https://vimeo.com/magema. [Accessed on 16 August 2016].