Art Seen: International

PHILIPPE PARRENO // PALAIS DE TOKYO

by Tara Plath

Currently installed in the colossal expanses of Palais de Tokyo are the sculptures, videos, and installations of French artist Philippe Parreno. The entirety of the museum has been given to the artist as grounds for an unprecedented solo exhibition, ANYWHERE, ANYWHERE OUT OF THE WORLD. The experience of overlapping sounds, images, text, and even shifting climates, challenge the viewer with unceasing stimulation – often bordering on sensory overload. Yet, there is a ghostly quality to the exhibition – whether it is the animated, never-quite-whole characters of his videos, the appropriated works of other artists, or the various sounds made by unseen bodies, Parreno succeeds in staging the Palais de Tokyo with an unparalleled atmosphere of absence, despite its abundant stimulation.

Exhibition view, Philippe Parreno, "Anywhere, Anywhere, Out Of The World", Palais de Tokyo, 2013. Liam Gillick, Factories in the snow, 2007. Photo: Aurélien Mole.

Exhibition view, Philippe Parreno, “Anywhere, Anywhere, Out Of The World”, Palais de Tokyo, 2013. Liam Gillick, Factories in the snow, 2007. Photo: Aurélien Mole.

Upon entering the exhibition space, one is immediately captivated by enormous free-standing LED panels; the exposed grid-work of lights depict a series of videos which immediately prepare the viewer for the experience to follow. One video work fills the screen with the face of an infant. The camera shifts and zooms, as stripes of static distort the increasingly agitated baby. The child quickly transforms from curious to distressed; its cries filling the exhibition hall, while the invasive motions of the camera refuse to relent. It is this unrelenting address that runs through the exhibition, almost as though each room attempts to outdo the previous experience through its chosen stimulants. Titles of works are embedded in slides of text that run quickly on small LCD screens installed in the gallery walls throughout the exhibition. Other slides of text describe a range of vague situations, characterized by human behavior, in cold and observational language.

Exhibition view, Philippe Parreno, "Anywhere, Anywhere, Out Of The World", Palais de Tokyo, 2013. Philippe Parreno, TV Channel, 2013 (detail). Courtesy Pilar Corrias Gallery. On screen: Fleurs, 1987. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Aurélien Mole.

Exhibition view, Philippe Parreno, “Anywhere, Anywhere, Out Of The World”, Palais de Tokyo, 2013. Philippe Parreno, TV Channel, 2013 (detail). Courtesy Pilar Corrias Gallery. On screen: Fleurs, 1987. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Aurélien Mole.

Also of note was the installation of Parreno’s generic lighted signs, hung in a pitch-black room. The intermittent light and darkness creates a composition of wiry music as the filaments of lightbulbs and neon ignite, flicker, and extinguish in random order around the space. Zidane: a 21st Century Portrait, one of Parreno’s most well known works, made in collaboration with Douglas Gordan, was expanded into an installation of 17 projection screens hung at incongruent angles, depicting 17 different shots of Zidane from the same game. While each screen jumps to different clips, the soundtrack goes from cheering crowd to muffled game plays, as though an invisible hand is constantly changing the channel. The viewer is forced to shuffle and twist as the action moves across the room. Yet, that action has been transformed from the consistent excitement of a normal soccer match to a longer and meditative engagement with this single player. In the time I spent interacting with the work, Zidane rarely had possession of the ball, and when he did, it was only for a fleeting moment before he is returned to nearly the same state as myself, shuffling and turning to track the action. At times, Zidane is reduced to a non-utilitarian character, seemingly confused and dispensable; both the subject and its audience assume complimentary roles, dancing and shuffling around each other, easily distracted and wary of investment. Those familiar with the work, however, might have the patience to await its climactic ending.

Exhibition view, Philippe Parreno, "Anywhere, Anywhere, Out Of The World", Palais de Tokyo, 2013. Philippe Parreno, Danny La Rue, 2013 (detail). Photo: Aurélien Mole.

Exhibition view, Philippe Parreno, “Anywhere, Anywhere, Out Of The World”, Palais de Tokyo, 2013. Philippe Parreno, Danny La Rue, 2013 (detail). Photo: Aurélien Mole.

There are quiet moments to found in the exhibition. One of them hides behind a dynamic bookcase, designed by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, which pivots into the wall to reveal an entrance to a small brightly lit room. Installed in this hidden gallery is the recreation of an exhibition of the work of Merce Cunningham and John Cage, in which one’s work replaces the other’s over the length of the show. Evidence of the changes can be identified in patched holes in the wall, left unfinished as traces of the process as well as the artists’ working and romantic relationship. Perhaps my favorite moment of the exhibition came after spending several solitary moments alone with Cage’s vibrating lines and Cunningham’s humble colored pencil sketches of birds, when I turned and realized there was no exit. Rather, the back of the bookcase rested flush with the wall, just a clean square outline that was neither inviting nor intimidating. One could choose to lean into it and escape, or as I did, wait patiently for a guard to re-enter the space and sneak between the cracks. Even this “quiet” moment was not outside of hearing distance of the several self-playing pianos, whose keys move themselves to re-create pianist Mikhail Rudy’s rendition of Igor Stravinsky’s Petroushka – maybe end with just a few words about the significance of that sound that ties into the exhibition.

Exhibition view, Philippe Parreno, "Anywhere, Anywhere, Out Of The World", Palais de Tokyo, 2013. Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, La Bibliothèque clandestine, 2013. Photo: Aurélien Mole.

Exhibition view, Philippe Parreno, “Anywhere, Anywhere, Out Of The World”, Palais de Tokyo, 2013. Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, La Bibliothèque clandestine, 2013. Photo: Aurélien Mole.




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ANYWHERE, ANYWHERE OUT OF THE WORLD runs through January 12, 2014 at the Palais de Tokyo.

Tara Plath is an artist and writer working out of Chicago, IL. She recently received a Bachelors of Fine Arts with an emphasis in sculpture and a Bachelors of Arts in Visual and Critical Studies from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

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