Displayed on 62 of the many screens in Times Square, Pipilotti Rist’s “Open My Glade (Flatten)” features the artist herself as the main subject, similar to her 1994 piece “Selbstlos im Lavabad.” In this multi-channel installation, the artist appears to press her face against the billboard from the inside, with and without heavy make up. The illusion of the screen’s glass and the implication that Rist is physically contained inside the screens highlight the barrier that exists between the viewer and the viewed. Rist makes this barrier clear by pressing her face into the physical representation of it.
Being displayed in times square, along side innumerable advertisements, Rist’s installation could be read as a parody of the surrounding content. Viewed in this way, the audience becomes hyper aware of their own gaze. The feature of this advert, it appears, is trying to escape. Or perhaps, she is pushing herself toward the audience, yearning to be seen among all the surrounding ads.
The heavy make up Rist is seen wearing on some of the screens serves as a sign of femininity. The bright colors could be read as an attempt to garner sexual attention. The work then suggests and comments on the female overwhelming overtly feminine presence in media images.
The emotional response I felt while viewing the piece was complex. It was an uncomfortable piece to watch, especially on so many surrounding screens. Rist’s character appears trapped. The knowledge of your own gaze is equally discomforting. You feel almost voyeuristic watching this piece.