Philippe Parreno

Critically acclaimed creator of science-fictional speculations on the future

Visitors to Parreno’s beautiful, unnerving show at Berlin’s Gropius Bau this year were confronted by conceptions of artistic authorship that are simply streets ahead, or leagues above. Much of the action (lights flicking off to illuminate glow-in-the-dark paintings, an electronic piano playing, the sound of Berlin radio stations) was directed not by Parreno but by fermenting, sugar-scoffing yeasts in a bioreactor, the artist’s collaborator for the last four years, whose organic learning he sees as a successor to algorithmic models. (Most of us are just now countenancing the latter.) Helium-filled fish balloons drifting around, moved by air currents shifted chancily by visitors (also popping up in Parreno’s Art Institute of Chicago show earlier in the year), more legibly displace control while converging the natural and synthetic – though of course the artist is making all the decisions upfront. Outside of Pierre Huyghe, hardly anyone else is operating in Parreno’s rarefied airspace. In a few years, many will be, and he’ll already be somewhere else.