Inside Philippe Parreno’s Brave New World at the Tate Modern

For his Turbine Hall commission in London, the French artist has created an entire, magical eco-system of his own.

Tate Photography

Depending on when they show up and where they stand, no two visitors to Philippe Parreno’s Hyundai Turbine Hall commission, Anywhen, at the Tate Modern in London, are likely to see and hear exactly the same artwork. You might have great ominous clangs bearing down on you, or the patter of rainfall, or the sound of an airplane passing through, or a youthful football team kicking a ball around. Maybe you’ll see an iridescent squid onscreen, holding its tentacles up in inky curls, or perhaps you’ll catch a real life silvery fish balloon.

The French art star, whose medium could be described as “experiences,” has transformed the vast, concrete cavern at the heart of the newly expanded Tate museum into something suggesting a film or theater set of the future. Sound and images are shown via white screens and black box microphones, which descend on long, long wires from the shadowy ceiling, many hundreds of feet above the carpeted floor where children play. Climbing the length and breadth of the walls are huge lightboxes, which blink and flash with the sound effects, as if the museum itself where trying to communicate.

In the film that shows intermittently, a ventriloquist is seen, briefly, with her dummy. She speaks of “biochemistry and semi-conductors” and “an expanding universe” while the aforementioned squid does his stuff in the dark of an aquarium. The control center for all this is a little room in the corner of the hall, with computers and big glass bottles full of plastic pipes. Supposedly there is some kind of yeast eco-system growing here, whose evolution dictates the sequence of sound and image. There are other links to nature established by Parreno, too, sensors feeding back weather from the museum roof and the sound of the river Thames beyond. The whole thing is a captivating, brave new wonderland of art, nature and science.

Installation view of Hyundai Commission 2016: Philippe Parreno: Anywhen, 2016

Tate Photography