ON afternoon This summer, before the official opening of Luma Arles, an impressive new art center in southern France, the triangular pool in one corner of the gallery on the ground floor began to overflow. Visitors were more entertaining than upset as the water mercilessly penetrated across the parquet floor. The circular blue carpet in the center of the room darkened, and even when it got dark, spectators suspected it was part of the show. The gallery was handed over to French conceptual artist Philippe Pareno. Philippe Pareno’s work challenges the notion of the possibilities of art exhibitions. Mr. Pareno was silently watching the water spread.
Born in Oran, Algeria and raised in Grenoble, one of France’s most tech-savvy cities, Pareno, now 57, first came to the art world in the early 1990s when the Internet became widespread. Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director of the Serpentine Gallery in London, remembers his work in the Summer Gardens of Villa Arson in Nice. It was made entirely of artificial fireflies and was invisible to anyone during the day. They were only visible at night when the museum was closed. Andrea Lissoni, who worked closely with the artists at Tate Modern, recalls an early show in New York where helium-filled fish-shaped balloons were unleashed in the gallery and placed and rearranged by visitors. The resulting excitement was in contrast to the gloomy awe that is commonly considered in art galleries, especially among children.
Both shows showed artistic interest, as they were, says Pareno, who has grabbed him over the last three decades. These include an obsessive focus on time rather than objects. Use of various media (movies, sounds, performances, etc.). Enthusiasm for working with collaborators, not alone. The quest for artificial intelligence and organic materials such as yeast as an artistic “agent” to help shape his artwork. Prioritize site-specific projects rather than shows that can be moved between galleries. Perhaps above all, there is Pareno’s claim that audience intervention is an important part of any exhibition.
For his next trick
Over the decades, his work has become more and more complex. For some, it’s hard to understand. In an installation created for the Tate Modern turbine hall in 2016, Pareno described a series of building data, including gallery temperatures at different times of the day and recordings of sounds produced by operating industrial plumbing. Was collected. Through it, and the wind speed of the roof. All this was relayed by a computer and fiber optic cable to a vast tub of live yeast placed behind the glass at one end of the hall.
The energy produced was used to subtly change the atmosphere of the hall. Visitors can roar, record the growls of nearby rivers, and slam boats on the shore while various films by Pareno are shown on screens that move up and down on cables suspended from the ceiling. I noticed that I was exposed. “It was a space in space,” he says now, “and you had another space in that space.” He claims that sound and screen are controlled by yeast. ing. One critic likened it to “alien intelligence.”
This kind of art is not for everyone. But for those who want to understand the ambitions of a French artist, it’s a good idea to start with his installation at Luma Arles. It consists of two parts: an 80-minute movie by Mr. Pareno and a projection based on the reaction of the audience. Visitors can sit on a circular bench, which itself is mounted in the middle of the floor. Sometimes the circle rotates first in one direction and then in the other. The window blinds move up and down depending on the level of outside sunlight. The drone that floats on the ceiling records the reaction of the audience and plays a whisper in the room. “Everything is a learning process,” says Parreno. “Every show is unique because the audience always reacts differently.”
The film, on the other hand, is a re-edited version of several previous films. For example, from the biology of squid and the sequence of train journeys that carry Robert Kennedy’s body from Los Angeles to the east coast after Robert Kennedy’s assassination, Pareno presents a whole new story. Less than the story of life.
The first frame represents the darkness of the starry sky at the edge of the galaxy far beyond this. From there, the viewer travels around the surface of the sun, through the heavens, and towards the earth. There, insect-eyed creatures (first screened in the previous movie “Anytime” squid, Tate Modern) are swamps. Mankind has evolved and gathered in dense cities, living along the filthy apartments of Chinatown, the luxurious interiors of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, and the American railroad sidelines. “Other” is always present in the form of immigrants, aliens, and different characters with different voices, all played by British ventriloquist Nina Conti. The effect is surreal and captivating.
Designed by Frank Gehry, Luma itself is a magnificent tower towering over the old town of Arles, confidently visually reminiscent of the pre-pandemic world. In contrast, Parreno’s installation is technically heavy, recreated from previous work, co-created with others, and tells a story about fragile humanity. Penetration from the overflowing pool in the corner of the gallery turned out to be the result of craftsmen accidentally leaving taps. But it’s all Pareno’s magic that you’ll be allowed to think of as part of the story. ■■
This article was published in the printed book and arts section under the heading “The Man Behind the Curtain”.
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