4th Floor to Mildness
Strange Days: Memories of the Future
3 October - 9 December 2018
4th Floor to Mildness (2016) was designed specifically for the fourth floor of the New Museum, and is now showing* at the X Store as part of the Strange Days: Memories of the Future exhibition. Rist fills the gallery with over a dozen beds covered in blue or green bedspreads. The visitor can stretch out on the mattresses and watch the videos projected above on two screens hanging from the ceiling.
To lie on a bed in public, felt initially like a vulnerable act, and the invigilator at the door was on guard, one presumes, for any inappropriate behaviour. The concern quickly leaves as the work is immersive and strangely intimate. The viewer can choose to sit, remain standing, recline or to to curl up and go to sleep. If you choose to use the beds, lying there, with your eyes looking up, resting on the gentle images above, you can’t see the people around you, as you can when watching other films. The atmosphere created in the room was soothing and lyrical. What is interesting is that this atmosphere is punctuated on every level with decay and violence.
The lazy red lantern, at first so gentle and illuminating, becomes the red light at the door of a prostitute, adding suddenly to a dark story of violence.
The choice of the song “Spiracle” by Skin&Soap (the Austrian musician Anja Plaschg) for the soundtrack initially sounds so innocent and sweet but the viewer slowly becomes aware of the lyrics which are laced with violence: “When I was a child/I threw with dung as I fought/As a child/I killed all thugs and bored with a bough/In their spiracle.”
Following the very human desire to find meaning in the shape of the two screens laying horizontally above, as though searching for images in the clouds, found two quasi-human profiles staring at each other. An image reflected below on the beds as the viewer turned to a companion and faced them profile to profile. The intimacy of the work above immediately broken with that connection.
This multi-layered work begins with sweetness and lyricism and ends with a brutal story of a tough life, lived hard where “every shimmer of beauty is undercut by mayhem and decay, where every shower of light is ringed in metaphorical darkness, and every sensation is designed to connect.”
*at the time of writing: November 2018
Stephanie Rosenthal from the Hayward talks about Rist “freeing the image from the square box” and nothing could be more true of this work. The films are projected onto curvy cloud cut outs hanging from the ceiling while a red lantern light slowly travels over the beds (and the people laying in them).
The images were intimate(close-ups of rippling underwater flora and the waterlogged skin of the artist’s face, fingers, breasts, and feet ) but strangely distant through the murkiness of the water. The viewer becomes aware that the plant life is in a state of change, decay and re-birth. The meaning alongside the naked body parts of water logged skin metamorphs into images of the morge.