Philippe Parreno

Philippe Parreno discusses his installation at the Park Avenue Armory

Philippe Parreno, The Crowd, 2015, digital video, color, sound, 24 minutes.

Paris-based artist Philippe Parreno’s installation H{N)YPN(Y}OSIS, 2015, is a fluid and infinitely variable composition of audio and visual elements that the artist can individually manipulate using an iPad. Parreno will be on site for the duration of the show, choreographing an ongoing, ever-changing dance featuring videos, sculptures, and live performances. H{N)YPN(Y}OSIS opens at the Park Avenue Armory on June 11 and will run through August 2, 2015.

UNTIL THIS PROJECT, the tools I had at my disposal to visualize a show were basically computer programs designed for positioning objects within a space. There wasn’t really a way to deal with the element of time. I was particularly interested in the Armory’s emptiness—there’s not much to contend with in terms of architecture—and I wanted to see how I could create blocks of time, or variable durations, within this vast open space. I was thinking about how I could get people to spend a couple of hours there. Instead of intervening in the infrastructure, like I did for my show at the Palais de Tokyo in 2013, H{N)YPN(Y}OSIS explores temporality by introducing time into architecture. Nothing I’m doing at the Armory is integrated into the architecture, so nothing is permanent or fixed.

The Armory takes up almost an entire New York city block, and I wanted the exhibition inside to be a reflection of the city outside. For instance, I’m showing twenty-six marquees in reference to Broadway. The films of mine that I am presenting are all tied to New York one way or another. Marilyn, 2012, is set at the Waldorf Astoria on Park Avenue, just a few blocks away from the Armory; Invisibleboy, 2010, which I’ve only shown once before, was shot in Chinatown; June 8, 1968, 2009, describes the day JFK’s body was brought from NYC to Washington, DC, by train; and then Crowd, 2015, was shot in the Armory this past winter. This new film focuses on three hundred New Yorkers who were invited to the Armory, where they were hypnotized and I played some music for them and showed them my films. The camera is only on the viewers looking at my work, and the result is a weird parallel universe. In a way they saw the show before the show happened, but now they are part of the show. There will also be a live feed of the sounds of Lexington Avenue pumped into the space, making the architecture seem a bit transparent. The Armory has these beautiful skylights, so maybe sometimes we’ll screen the films in the daylight, which could look nice and ghostly. All of these elements bring the outside in and make the show a mirror reflecting New York and New Yorkers.

All of the elements in the exhibition—the videos, music recordings, and marquees—can be controlled from a master keyboard that looks like a piano but conceptually is more like a gamelan, with diverse instruments that can be played together. The control room is not a visible part of the exhibition, but we’ve developed an interface so that everything can also be run off an iPad. This way I can be in the exhibition while manipulating the various elements—I can turn on the lights of the marquees, activate the player pianos, play with the sounds, and so on. I will be at the Armory for the run of the exhibition, and most of the time it will be me playing the show, creating a live, changing choreography. It’ll never be the same. I want to experiment, see what happens, learn, be there with the viewers, and play around. I will also be inviting other artists and friends to animate the exhibition. Pianist Mikhail Rudy will play every day, and Tino Sehgal is composing a piece of music especially for the show. Collaboration and social situations are very important to my work. I come from a place where an exhibition is also a studio—a place for experimentation. For this show, what’s new is the idea that everything is live. People who come see H{N)YPN(Y}OSIS multiple times will have a different experience with each visit, and I hope people come back again and again.