Philippe Parreno : VOICE-OVER
Philippe Parreno
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?

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