Philippe Perrin

Anonymity as a strategy for survival in an egocentric culture is certainly not a trademark of Philippe Perrin. His work Brand New Cadillac, 1992, is a composite of many objects: little boxes displaying familiar attributes and fetishes of our consumer society are grouped around a black and white photograph of an attractive woman in the act of undressing. As in an earlier work, entitled Killer, 1990, which was shown in the “Aperto” section of the Venice Biennale, the scene here is suggested as in a movie. Perrin has even broken the glass pane of one of the boxes, which, it is implied, surely also contained an object the viewer can imagine and replace. Shards of glass still remain on the floor, and the broken pane is tinted with fake blood. Perrin’s works seductively and provocatively pose questions about what is genuine and what is false in the way they use illusion.

The game that is played out between reality and fiction is a strategy Perrin uses to reach all the way to the star cult that surrounds the artist’s own person. In his new book, Perrin appears in the persona of “Starkiller.” He simulates a new, immortal “hero” through fictional stories and “heroic deeds”: Starkiller is the fictional diary of a murderer who travels around the world calmly, methodically, uncompromisingly searching out victims. So banal and clichéd is each fragment and entry in this journal that it could easily serve as a script for a cheap thriller. In Starkiller violence, power, and impotence are the main themes, and attack is the best defense.

Perrin creates pseudo-personalities, mystifications of his own person, into which he slips like an actor. His way of playing with opposite pairs and illusory maneuvers is also evident in an object entitled Justice, 1992. Like a relic, or a piece of evidence from Starkiller, an open law book lies on display in a showcase. The book has been tampered with and holds a revolver in a hollowed-out space within the pages. Crime hides beneath the cover of the law, each one intimately connected to the other. Good and evil have entered into a symbiosis; no longer is there an opposition between the two. Love Song, 1992, treats another ambiguity: Perrin and a woman stare silently at a point in a nearly empty room. The frame around this black and white photograph consists of loudspeakers blaring a French love song. It would seem that the former lovers have nothing more to say to each other; what was once love is now illusion and cliché.

Perrin should be seen as an ironist rather than a cynical artist. His works tell riddles, and his texts are seen as malignly naive parables on the business of art. The personae of the boxer or killer that Perrin uses and depicts as heroes or stars in the struggle for survival are in isolated, outsider positions. Indirectly they are murdered by the viewers. The agents become the victims of massacre; the hero becomes the antihero and, as in a soap opera, the story goes on and on. . . .

Frank-Alexander Hettig

Translated from the German by Leslie Strickland.