Pipilotti Rist @ Time Square
The Pipilotti Rist video exhibit "Open my Glades (Flatten)" at Time Square, as part of the the Midnight Moments project, is a multichannel mega video installation in one of the most commercial, crowded, and overwhelming area not just in the city, but in the world. I personally felt an overwhelming confusion, despite the unnatural emptiness of Time Sq at that hour. I couldn't decide what screen to look at and I felt the pressure that I only had three minutes before the moment was over. Time Sq. is an area I tend to avoid, so I knew I only had one chance to see this exhibit and that bothered me. I spent so long at the New Museum exhibit, taking my time with each exhibit, that the rushed experience made me feel unsatisfied at the end.
It was difficult to understand whether others that were looking up at the screen and photographing/recording were aware of the exhibit or if they were simply entranced by the famous Time Sq. lights. After the three minutes were up, I sat with my friends and we talked about the piece. We began to feel special because we knew about the exhibit. We were New Yorkers who's only business at this tourism HQ is this exclusive art experience.
I think Rist's message within this piece is explicitly about femininity within the public sphere and how the female image is a tool for marketing and consumerism. The way she chose to portray this theme, having a woman smear makeup onto the screen, is a call to audiences to consider how they see other women within the Time Sq. screens and advertising. The smearing, which occurs in several screens at a time, is almost disturbing, which leads me to think that Rist is aiming to reclaim the female image by distorting it and highlighting the "screen" element.
Some significant signs within her piece include the makeup, a symbol of femininity and acceptability of the female image, the multichannel presentation, which serves to emphasize the commerciality and consumerism associated to the female image, and the buildings/window shots, which set Rist outside of an abstract context and position her clearly within reality.
A weakness within the piece, which confusingly is also a strength, is the multichannel nature of the exhibit. It is a weakness because within the Time Sq. setting, having several humongous screens all around the block makes it difficult to focus and quite frustrating in the moment to me as a viewer. Yet, this is also a strength because I believe this is her aim. After sitting and pondering my experience, I realized my frustration with this overwhelming amount of screens isnt exclusive to "Open my Glades (Flatten)," it is my experience with Time Sq. in general. So, she used this frustration to make the viewers consider how extreme and head-ache inducing and confusing Time Sq. screens are. Had these screen been within the smaller and confined walls of an art gallery, these implications would be irrelevant, and her themes of femininity in the public and the overwhelming hold of consumerism would be lost. This piece need Time Sq. and areas like it to function and provoke the audience.