New Criticals

For decades, Rist’s work has been gently but persistently forcing audiences to consider, often through enticing and seductive pictures, “nature” and the “nature” of violence, beauty, masculinity, femininity, exploitation, collusion and power. Her work is literally covered in flowers, trees, grass and organic forms presented at scales meant to deliberately blur the lines between self and “other” – organic or man made.  She’s turned panties, which she calls “temples to the abdomen,” into chandeliers, made people look at women’s insides, literally immersing them in women’s bodies. In one performance, she does a Minnie-Mouse dance while she repeatedly sings, at faster and faster rate, “I'm not a girl who misses much.” It's a line from the Beatles, “Happiness Is a Warm Gun.”  When she talks about Pour Your Body Out (7354 Cubic Meters), another piece, she’s explained, “One of my biggest thoughts is to reconcile thinking and body,” a particular problem for women, central to feminism. “Politically,” she has said, “I am a feminist, but personally, I am not. For me, the image of a woman in my art does not stand just for women: she stands for all humans.” 

Rist is an artist whose work has presaged many current feminist concerns and public confrontations. Take the current end period shame movement. While many people might think of the drive to normalize periods and destigmatize women’s bodies and their functions in terms of individual women’s needs and comfort, it is, in fact, an explicitly political feminist movement, one which seeks more broadly to decenter men’s bodies in our collective understanding of what it means to be human. This has huge societal implications and is a political act.