Philippe Parreno : VOICE-OVER
Philippe Parreno
VOICE-OVER
Christine Macel, May 18, 2009
Offered a retrospective by the Centre Pompidou, Philippe Parreno has come up with a “journey through time,” a re-reading of the artist’s work by the artist himself that is articulated through three elements: the exhibition proper, the accompanying series of special events for young people, and the substantial catalogue. The first large-scale presentation of the artist’s work in France since 2002, this is also a component of a wider project, being one of a number of concurrent exhibitions that Parreno is staging at leading international venues: the Kunsthalle, Zurich, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, and Bard College, NY. Parreno clearly doesn’t see his retrospective as a simple accumulation of emblematic pieces. This is why he insists on the idea of a “journey through time,” hinging on key dates related to his work and development, among them 1968, the year of Robert Kennedy’s death; 1977, the opening of the Centre Pompidou; and 1993, the year of the artist’s own Speech Bubbles. Seeking as ever to escape the confinement of the gallery’s four walls, Parreno will invite young visitors to develop a series of children’s performances inspired by his past works. Every morning during the first month, primaryschool children and teenagers will present animations developed in workshops with the artist: a project entirely in accord with the Centre’s commitment, since its very beginnings, to promoting young people’s engagement with art.

Philippe Perreno/The Writer, 2007
Philippe Perreno/The Writer, 2007


Extract from the catalogue VOICE-OVER

It is indeed difficult to write a catalogue of an artist who rearranges notions of intellectual property and copyright, does not archive the past, plays with the relationship between objects and language, creates performances and ephemeral events and seeks out collaborations—“preferring the symphony to the concerto.” […] His artwork was seen by a public audience for the first time in 1988 when Fleurs (1987) appeared on French television as the background for a weather forecast. His approach concerns a universe of particular references, where television culture and good jokes hold an important place. With a certain ease and a sharp sense of dark humor, Parreno played the role of the idiot in the guise of an art critic in No More Reality (1991–1993) and avoided the issue. Several works illustrate the jokes and memories of retirement home residents. Television and film, both as modes of production and exhibition models, inspired the artist to take on the role of actor, producer, film director and artistic director. Parreno asserts his interest in the space-time of production which allows for meaning to arise. […]


Philippe Perreno/PARADE
Philippe Perreno/PARADE


Since No More Reality, speech, language and time are more important than the object and space. The object’s materiality is grounded in the circumstances of its production and the object cannot be separated from its exhibition context.[…] Parreno takes the cultural signs of the early 1990s as his subject and medium. Through rigorous experimentation, Parreno intuitively built up a body of work which, little by little, becomes aware of its own questions. Siberia (1988) marked the first of a series of collaborations, a production model which would become an integral part of Parreno’s ongoing practice. His commitment to an art of collaboration, not of a formal group but of conversations between friends as well as a commitment to a practice of writing enriches his own projects and creates scenarios for other artists. Sharing intellectual property is a means of politicizing his practice. Parreno’s desire to work within the social field and various communities corresponds to an aesthetic of reception, already important for the students of Foucault and Barthes, and articulated by Nicolas Bourriaud in 1998. The artist endeavours to build exhibition situations or circuits, places to move across where everyone can create his or her own story. More interested in procedures than in resolutions, Parreno defines art as a process rather than an object, an extract of normalized museum time.

Film no longer just tells a story but is the means to explore questions such as those related to production. The project No Ghost Just a Shell (1999–2002) conceived with Pierre Huyghe, gave relational reality to the manga character AnnLee. The film Zidane (2006) questions the possibility of presenting a subject’s image in the present. This portrait of the 21st century marks a return to the image, to the moment, to real time, as if they were the last sanctuary in the face of a present gone schizophrenic. Un-mediated media, spectacle and theatre also allow Parreno to pursue his interest in polyphony. Whereas in the 1990s he focused on the actor, the child, the impersonator, the television presenter, the clairvoyant and the hypnotist, from the years 2000, he explored the manga character, the publisher, the conjurer, the ventriloquist and the stage director. Through these ghosts, these virtual shadows, these masks and these ventriloquists, an empty shell haunts us. Parreno shows events, memories, words, absences. Curious about everything, always working on several projects at once, extending his studio to many different places, scared of boredom more than anything else, this artist works to make real that which is doomed to disappear. PARADE?

Philippe Perreno/Fraught Times_For Eleven Months of the Year it's an Artwork and in December it's Christmas, October 2008
Philippe Perreno/Fraught Times_For Eleven Months of the Year it's an Artwork and in December it's Christmas, October 2008


Bio_Express

From the very beginning, Philippe Parreno has worked collaboratively, first with a group of fellow-artists that started with Pierre Joseph and Bernard Joisten and later came to include Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster and Philippe Perrin. His work continues to revolve around a collaborative multivocality that draws on a wide range of sources, from John Cage to Mikhail Bakhtin. The works themselves manifest the same commitment to interaction, as for example Sac Ozone (1988), filled with objects to be handled by the public — Parreno has always seen the exhibition as a space of freedom, community and play. It was against this background that in the early ‘90s there emerged the beginnings of a more personal body of work, with the No More Reality project, launched with a video of children demonstrating in a school playground, chanting the slogan of the title. The artist’s reflection on the exhibition as medium, already evident in the earlier collective works, then developed more decisively, leading to Snow Dancing, 1995. This work consists of three elements, one of them a book of the same title that describes an event. This event, a party-like series of micro-events in a single venue, then took place, just as described, at the Consortium, Dijon. The event, in turn, was followed by the opening, which revealed only the traces of its past future. Here, fiction became reality, to the point of being indistinguishable from it.


Philippe Perreno/Philippe_Parreno-Speech_Bubbles
Philippe Perreno/Philippe_Parreno-Speech_Bubbles


The early years of this decade saw the conceptual aspect of the work come to the fore, while Parreno’s imaginary became dominated, more than ever, by the themes of the ghostly and of the “hollow” subject. Questions of authorship, of collective creation, of copyright and copyshare were returned to in what are today the artist’s best-known works: Ann Lee (the Japanese manga character bought with Pierre Huyghe who figured in a number of works before her retirement in 2002), Crédits… (a film of 2000, whose full title is the list of the 17 people who worked on it) and Bryannnnnn Ferryyyyyy (a film of 2004, on the law and practice of copyright, made with Liam Gillick).

Reflection on the time of the exhibition found expression in Alien Seasons at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, in 2002, where the appearance of a cuttlefish in a video triggered the other works. The theme of the ghostly made a return after Ann Lee, with works in fluorescent ink visible only in the dark, disappearing in the light (Fade Away). And in the film El Sueño de una Cosa (2001, MNAM), Parreno conceives of different versions of the same work, which varies in each instantiation, exploring different contexts of presentation, from the cinema to the museum, displacing and remixing his own work. Parreno gained much acclaim in 2006 for the film Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, made with Douglas Gordon. In this installation-cum-commercial release the two artists sought to capture presence in the moment, articulating a reflection on time that puts into question its very reality. The series of blank Marquees suggests that exhibitions be experienced in cinematic time, while Il Tempo del Postino, a collaborative performance at the Manchester Opera House, takes Parreno’s exploration of exhibition one step further in “delivering” art in a new way, in a new space.

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