Philippe Parreno | Animating The Inanimate

An integral part of Philippe Parreno’s exhibitions is in creating atmosphere for artistic discourse. At the Park Avenue Armoury exhibition in 2015, using stage lighting effects, music, strange sounds coupled with booming multi-human voices which at times seem like a psychological thriller and other times, a science fiction, or an airport announcement, in which inanimate theatre marquees, signs, have a mind and are speaking, lighting up whenever they make a sound or say something.

H {N)Y P N(Y} OSIS (2015) Philippe Parreno
H {N)Y P N(Y} OSIS (2015) Philippe Parreno
H {N)Y P N(Y} OSIS (2015) Philippe Parreno
H {N)Y P N(Y} OSIS (2015) Philippe Parreno
H {N)Y P N(Y} OSIS (2015) Philippe Parreno
H {N)Y P N(Y} OSIS (2015) Philippe Parreno

About midway through, the visitor realizes this is no ordinary exhibition, but a stage play, in which the actors are the objects on display, rectangular ceiling hung light fixtures which look like theatre marquees or signs hung from the side of a building, which have no words or advertising content except clear light bulbs, and which are talking to their counter parts, the audience, which unwittingly have become part of the play.

H {N)Y P N(Y} OSIS (2015) Philippe Parreno
H {N)Y P N(Y} OSIS (2015) Philippe Parreno

Towards the end, a girl’s androidish voice can be heard, slowly, carefully and somewhat errily explaining its predicament of being a ‘sign’ existing in an industry which condemned her to die, but was liberated by ‘Philippe’ (Parreno) and ‘Pierre’ (Huyghe) who wanted to give her ‘rights to herself, owning herself’ for which she, now known as Ann Lee, thought was ‘generous, I guess’.

H {N)Y P N(Y} OSIS (2015) with Ann Lee
H {N)Y P N(Y} OSIS (2015) with Ann Lee
H {N)Y P N(Y} OSIS (2015) with Ann Lee
H {N)Y P N(Y} OSIS (2015) with Ann Lee

After a while Ann became dissatisfied with just owning herself, which only mattered in a court room; she wanted a body and have a life and so asked ‘Tino’ (Sehgal) to help her, so she could communicate with people who came to see her in these ‘art places’.

Ann Lee 'embodied'
Ann Lee ’embodied’

Incidently, the piano, which robotically plays by itself, is playing the classical Russian piece Petrushka the story of a puppet, brought to life by a puppeteer, who gets ‘killed’ by another character during the play, but whose ghost in the end still haunts its master.

In Invisible Boy (2010), its the reverse; a real live human being, a Chinese immigrant boy, who is somewhat ‘invisible’ to the society he is in, has been characterized and brought to life; his deepest fears have also been animated and given form.

Invisible Boy (2010) Philippe Parreno
Invisible Boy (2010) Philippe Parreno
Invisible Boy (2010) Philippe Parreno
Invisible Boy (2010) Philippe Parreno

And just as in Hypnosis (2015) where the pianos errily play by themselves, here invisible boy’s imaginery monsters of the night, have been animated, by scratching directly onto the film stock, bringing to life what is hidden in the dark recesses of the mind.

Part fiction, part mythology and part documentary, this film depicts the reality for a sub-culture of immigrant people, as its backdrop. The monsters that come out at night are ‘augmented’ onto this reality to create the character ‘invisible boy’, a superhero, who like superman, conquers them through the natural powers endowed within.

Invisible Boy (2010) Philippe Parreno
Invisible Boy (2010) Philippe Parreno
Invisible Boy (2010) Philippe Parreno
Invisible Boy (2010) Philippe Parreno
Zidane-A 21st Century Portrait (2006)
Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (2006)

Another project which might be of interest is Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (2006), a documentary produced in collaboration with Director Douglas Gordon, of French soccer star Zinédine Zidane during a league game he played for Real Madrid against FC Villareal, on April 23, 2005.

Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (2006)
Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (2006)

While the world is fascinated by Zidane’s ball control, dribbling and shooting skills, this film focuses on what it feels like to be on the pitch, which actually is a lot of running around, and not a lot of footballing.

Curiously, the monotony of players running back and forth, belies the drama on the pitch, augmented by Zidane’s thoughts about the game, which takes on a mythological dimension; like the one time he had a premonition about scoring just before he got the ball and scored, or how little one player can change the outcome of the game, no matter how talented he is.

This is the game where Zidane says to the referee “You should be ashamed of yourself” after Villareal take the lead from a dubious penalty awarded to them.

This is also the game, where Real Madrid score 2 dramatic goals in the second half to regain the lead, with Zidane’s brilliant drive down to the baseline past 3 defenders for the cross and equalizing goal. For the first time in the whole game, everything is back under control, and he shares a laugh with teammate Roberto Carlos, but within 3 minutes of this happening, Zidane gets mixed up in a fight and finally gets ejected.

What this shows is how TV coverage has forged a beautiful character out of the man, dehumanizing him in the process, while the film has humanized the character back, depicting a fragile, sensitive man beneath the dazzling football player.

Zidane-A 21st Century Portrait (2006)
Zidane-A 21st Century Portrait (2006)