Philippe Parreno



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Not on display

Philippe Parreno born 1964
Steel, light bulbs, acrylic, LED lights, light control unit and sound
Unconfirmed: 940 × 7920 × 2970 mm
Purchased with funds provided by Tate Members and Tate International Council, with Art Fund support, and additional assistance from the artist, Pilar Corrias, Gladstone Gallery and Esther Schipper 2019


Marquee 2016 is one of a number of Marquee works which Philippe Parreno has been creating since 2006. To date, the series numbers about thirty and comprises different light works inspired by the luminous signs which hung over the entrances to American movie theatres in the 1950s to advertise films. For the artist, a Marquee is an intervention in the display space that introduces the possibility of an event; no longer advertising a cinematographic show but still suggesting the presence of cinema, the Marquee becomes an indicator, a label or naming device. These glowing pieces span the realms of sculpture, architecture and art, acting as ambiguous gateways between the inside and the outside world.

In 2016 Parreno carried out the Hyundai Commission for the central Turbine Hall space at Tate Modern, London with a project entitled Anywhen. His proposal acknowledged the new function of the Turbine Hall bridge, following the opening of the Blavatnik extension to the museum. This was the first time that he decided to hang a Marquee in the centre of the space, suggesting an event that might be happening anywhere in the area, at any time. Marquee 2016 was the centrepiece of an immersive site-specific exhibition that changed throughout the day and evolved during the six months it was on display. Conceived as an automaton guiding the public through a constantly changing play of moving screens, videos, light configurations and sound events, the exhibition was based on sequences of events unfolding and triggered by software informed by a colony of yeast living in a bioreactor visible at the far end of the Turbine Hall. The yeast was connected to a weather station on the roof of the museum, from which data (based on wind speed, temperature and light levels) was sent to a computer, processed by an algorithm and finally sent into the bioreactor, controlling the feeding process for the yeast and its consequent behaviour. The yeast in return changed its patterns of movement based on the food it received, slowly developing a behaviour and some ‘habits’.

Since the beginning of his career, Parreno has explored the borders between reality and its representation, utilising the vocabulary, and the means, associated with a variety of media such as radio, television, cinema and, more recently, information technology. His work, often based on collaboration with musicians, scientists, architects, writers and other artists, seeks to expand perception of duration by inviting viewers to re-evaluate the nature of reality, memory and the passage of time.

Marquee 2016 can be installed in one of two ways: at the same time as (but not necessarily in the same space as) Parreno’s earlier work, TV Channel 2013 (Tate add acc no), a large LED installation with sound that broadcasts a selection of six short films made by the artist, screened one after the other, spanning a period from 1987 (Fleurs) to 2007 (The Writer). In this case, Marquee would be tuned to the latter work and therefore would react to impulses related to each different video broadcast, with the LED element of Marquee flickering or emitting different sounds. Alternatively, Marquee can be displayed as a stand-alone artwork, hung in the centre of a room or space or above its doorway, and would ‘play’ the data of the patterns produced by the yeast during the six months’ ‘lifespan’ of Anywhen, recorded and subsequently processed by the artist. As such, Marquee can be considered a summative artwork embodying the artist’s vision: a monument recalling the memory of the invisible events that happened during the Turbine Hall’s commission; and also a shell inhabited by a mutable presence that can be displayed in various galleries and environments, always suggesting different meanings.

Speaking about this matter, Parreno has stated:

I don’t even really look at the Marquees (2006–ongoing) like objects anymore: they become puppets, automata. They are like those creatures invented by Mallarmé just because they sound great in a poem. A ptyx for example is defined as ‘Aboli bibelot d’inanité sonore’, which translates as ‘Abolished shell whose resonance remains’. I like to think about the Marquees as ‘abolished shells’.
It sounds great! Marquees are ptyx!
(Philippe Parreno, in conversation with Tom Eccles, ‘Philippe Parreno’, in ArtReview, October 2015, vol. 67, no.7, p.84.)

Further reading
Hans Ulrich Obrist, The Conversation Series: Philippe Parreno, Cologne 2008.
Karen Marta (ed.), Philippe Parreno. Anywhere, Anywhere Out of the World, Cologne 2014.
Andrea Lissoni (ed.), Philippe Parreno, Anywhen, Tate Modern, London 2016.

Andrea Lissoni
September 2017

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