Philippe Parreno’s first solo exhibition in a public institution in the UK was conceived as a scripted space in which a series of events unfolds.
The visitor was guided through the Parreno exhibition by the orchestration of sound and image. Noise from Kensington Gardens and from the surrounding streets could be heard inside the gallery, as though the outside was leaking in. The blinds came up to reveal a sudden change of weather. Taking the exhibition as a medium, Parreno sought to redefine the exhibition experience by exploring its possibilities as a coherent ‘object’, rather than a collection of individual works.
The show featured the UK premiere of Parreno’s film, Invisibleboy (2010), the story of an illegal Chinese immigrant boy who sees imaginary monsters (scratched directly onto the film stock). In this filmic portrait, fantasy and social realism, fiction and documentary overlap. June 8, 1968 (2009) recalls the train voyage that transported the corpse of assassinated senator Robert Kennedy from New York to Washington D.C. Kennedy’s invisible body and the Invisibleboy are characters that float between several layers of reality. Set in Asia, The Boy from Mars (2003) follows dimming points of light and reflections of the sun, before lingering on buffalo tied to a purpose-built structure containing an electricity-generating machine that provides the power required to make the film.
Whether through the cinematic image or the exhibition itself, Parreno explores and manipulates contemporary signs in all of their hallucinatory reality.
A conference on Philippe Parreno took place at the French Institute/Institut Français in two parts. This series of events explored the construction of reality and time in Parreno’s exhibition at the Serpentine. Presentations and discussions concentrated on the inscription and scripting of space and time in visual arts, film, graphic novels, animation, music, theatre and literature.
This first event, on 21 January, consisted of experimental presentations, conversations and screenings. These focused on the creation of characters through the visual arts and related narrative practices. Artists, writers, academics and other cultural practitioners presented their research on characters and portraiture. Performed, embodied, absent and ethereal aspects of these characters animated an investigation into the questions of visibility/invisibility and the ghost in cinema and literature. The event was followed by a special screening of the film The Long Goodbye at the Ciné Lumière in the French Institute.
Contributors to the conference included: Shumon Basar, Claire Hooper, Victoria Brooks, Dr. Rachel Moore, Nicola Lees, Oliver Castel, Lucia Pietroiusti, Richard Parry, Cally Spooner, Marcus Werner Hed, Shumon Basar, Jérôme Bel, Samantha Hardingham, Tino Sehgal, Janet Harbord, Nicolas Roeg.