2017 Art Recap: Philippe Parreno @ Rockbund Art Museum


This week’s photo theme is 2017 in Contemporary Chinese Art: a look back at exhibitions that stood out to us this year, for one reason or another.

Synchronicity, the first China solo show for Paris-based artist Philippe Parreno, was interesting to a less-than-casual observer for its complete, almost parasitic relationship to the physical structure of its host, Rockbund Art Museum. Interesting, but not quite memorable, except for one piece, the only one that wasn’t site-specific.

From my review at the time:

The experience begins on Rockbund’s second floor with the only artwork that’s directly accessible as an artwork: a short 3D video that repeats regularly, and as such is the only thing in the entire exhibition that you can reliably expect to see. You don some 3D glasses at the entrance and watch an anime character discuss her existence as an empty avatar that exists only as a product whose narrative changes at the leisure of her owner (presumably, Parreno). Fair enough.

Photo via SmartShanghai

I’m not sure why, but I keep revisiting this piece through random thought tunnels. Maybe it has to do with the way it combines themes relating to AI, VR, entertainment and pop culture. The narrator has the kind of unnerving reliability one gets from a good William Gibson antihero, and it still feels incredibly prescient and relevant, considering its an adaptation from a film Parreno originally  made in 2000. It’s aged well, and perhaps resonates even more deeply in Shanghai, a place where AI-enhanced anime adventures experienced through wearable VR headsets might be coming soon.

Josh Feola
Josh Feola is a US-based writer and musician, and RADII's former Culture Editor. His coverage of Chinese music and art has appeared in The Wire, Dazed, MIT Technology Review, Artsy, Bandcamp Daily and more. He's been active in China's underground music scene since 2010 via his booking platform pangbianr.com, and is a former member of Beijing bands Chui Wan, SUBS, and Vagus Nerve.
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