Magazine article Art Monthly

Philippe Parreno

Magazine article Art Monthly

Philippe Parreno

Article excerpt

Philippe Parreno

Serpentine Gallery London

25 November to 13 February

Like treacly Hollywood blockbusters, Philippe Parreno's cinematic art projects seek to tap into objects of broad public consciousness in order to mine their sentimental riches. Over and over again, Parreno deploys motifs that approach universality--childhood, street protest, football (his film with Douglas Gordon, Zidane: a 21st Century Portrait, 2006, is not screened here)--and articulates them afresh as quasi-participatory events. Thankfully, Parreno's works are usually too philosophically layered and mysterious to be simple documents of unfettered fantasy. Parreno's numerous supporters--including the Serpentine's own curator Hans Ulrich Obrist--can justifiably claim that these works are among the most intellectually sophisticated explorations of intersubjective desire, collective emotion and relational production to have emerged from European artistic discourse over the past 20 years.

At the Serpentine, Parreno has orchestrated four film and video works into a theatrical and durational experience. These are played one after the other in separate rooms, so that one video comes on as another finishes. The audience is thus urged to move between gallery spaces by following the soundtrack of the works as they begin. It is a tactic that effectively transforms the art audience into a motley bunch of actors--albeit ones whose actions are dictated by the artist's curatorial choices. No More Reality, 1991, is a brief video of a group of children chanting the titular phrase while marching and carrying placards. The phrase is a muddle of situationist utopianism--a call to action--and Baudrillardian Postmodernism--defeatism--which you might take either way. (This seems a little insensitive considering the student protests occurring across London at this time.) Next up is The Boy From Mars, 2003: a seductive nocturne in which airborne candle lanterns take off from a diaphanous hangar-like structure, buffalos brood around the edge of a small lake and monsoon-like rain lashes down. The Boy From Mars was realised at Rirkit Tiravanija's ecological art project, The Land, in northern Thailand, and features a structure designed by architects R&Sie(n) and a buffalo-powered contraption that generated the energy needed to make the film itself. In addition, the structure would supposedly have an afterlife as a shelter for the local community, although it has reportedly since fallen into disrepair, along with much else of artistic provenance at The Land. …

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