The uncanny world of Philippe Parreno
The artist’s solo show at the Beyeler this month includes new films starring a black garden and a robotic Marilyn Monroe
By Louisa Buck. Features, Issue 236, June 2012
Published online: 15 June 2012
Philippe Parreno has been described as “permanently moving”, and certainly his work, whether made on his own or in his frequent collaborations with fellow artists, evades easy definition in its constant exploration of how art can and should be experienced. The Algerian-born, Paris-based artist is probably best known for two collaborative works, each of which uses film to examine notions of portraiture and the representation of individuals. Zidane: a 21st-century Portrait, made with the British artist Douglas Gordon in 2006, is composed of footage shot from 17 different cameras trained on the French footballer Zinedine Zidane during a match between Real Madrid and Villareal. For No Ghost Just a Shell, 1999, Parreno and the French artist Pierre Huyghe bought the copyright for the Japanese Manga character Annlee, and then invited artists to make work in response to this off-the-peg avatar. More recently, Parreno has been working alone, but for his solo show at the Fondation Beyeler in
this month, he has enlisted film crews, set builders, landscape architects,
digital technicians and even a medium for two new films, which feature an
all-black garden and Marilyn Monroe. Basel
The Art Newspaper:?Why did you choose to make a film about Marilyn?
Philippe Parreno: It started with a little book that a friend sent me of fragments from her notebooks—and what I liked was her handwriting.
So you were attracted by her words and her writing, and not her face or her image.
The book was published because this year people are celebrating her death, and in my work I am interested in celebration. I was interested in the idea of celebrating a dead person, of trying to portray a ghost. Why are ghosts interesting? Because they are unfinished, heterogenous. Marilyn Monroe represents the first time that the unconscious killed the person—her image killed her. So we had to use an image to bring her back. The film is the portrait of a phantom incarnated in an image. Or, to use a neologism, an attempt to produce a “carnated” image.