From objectless exhibition to exhibition as object, Philippe Parreno approaches his exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo as an artwork in its own right. Within this framework, he transforms the venue into a poetic space, straddling both the real and the virtual.
The artist reinvents the Palais de Tokyo into a veritable theatre of memory, whose structure reveals the different strata of its history. He turns to different architectural and scenographic techniques that suggest new possibilities for the building - walls, ceilings, floors, lighting, and sound; the entire structure is reinterpreted and reconceived. Parreno creates a perceptual dramaturgy that opens new ways of occupying the building’s spaces, gives new functions to its rooms, and initiates novel encounters between the artworks and the architecture.
This recasting of the building, an operation expertly orchestrated by the artist, in collaboration with set designer Randall Peacock and sound designer Nicolas Becker, guides the visitor through the space using visual and sonic effects. Movements from Stravinsky’s Petrushka act as the soundtrack to the path he proposes to visitors, who can encounter the ghost of Marilyn Monroe, see live images of a black garden in Portugal (C.H.Z.), hear the ghostly footsteps of dancers from the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, meet the character Annlee incarnated as a real little girl (a work in collaboration with Tino Sehgal), walk along a street lit by flashing marquees, watch Zinedine Zidane from seventeen different vantage points on seventeen different screens,and discover a secret passageway in Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster’s bookshelf.
With these scenes, Parreno places the exhibition itinerary within both a momentary performance and the duration of a larger story, creating a sense of timelessness, where different temporalities overlap and intermingle.
This temporal dynamic takes shape in a sonic and musical exploration. Parreno makes poetic use of Stravinsky’s famous Petrushka to cut his exhibition into different movements, into different scenes. Each of the movements that constitute Stravinsky’s extraordinary work, performed here by Mikhail Rudy, announces an event in the exhibition. The entire exhibition is thus orchestrated and punctuated by the ghost, the spirit of Petrushka, a puppet who, through this partitioning, turns the exhibition into an automaton. This orchestration, based on thematic and temporal correspondences with Stravinsky’s composition, highlights the mysterious, secret architecture of the exhibition. It invites the spectator to plunge into a floating world between presence and absence, between forgetting and persistence, transforming the visit into a melancholyinflected tale.