The scene Parreno sets is almost uncanny—like a place one has been before. His 2015 work Bleachers, inspired by set designer Jacques Polieri, is timed to move in sync with the choreography of the exhibition’s rhythm and the onset of the films, taking those seated on the rotating, circular bleachers on a hypnotic tour of the exhibition. Meanwhile, just 20 feet away, classical pianist Mikhail Rudy plays Bach while Parreno’s 2012 film Marilyn runs simultaneously at the other end of the hall. The film almost takes cues from Rudy’s fingers hitting the keys, and moments of synchronicity between Rudy, the film, and the fulgent and flickering lights of the marquees vanish and reappear. The choreography Parreno has devised is both unsettling and comforting. Daylight slips in and out and attention moves between small gestures to big screens. Park Avenue Armory’s president and executive producer, Rebecca Robertson, noted that she was pleased that Parreno utilized some of the “mechanical tricks” that the space has to offer, including automatic blinds for the 127 windows that border the Drill Hall’s ceiling.
Parreno’s stay in New York this summer for the run of the show will be the most extended period of time he has ever spent in the city. Before this exhibition, he had only been to the venue a few times, but it was the space that he was particularly drawn to. “What I like is that it’s an open box; there is no architecture,” he says. “So I wanted to treat it as a block of Manhattan, to treat it as plaza, a place where things can happen.” Speaking to recent political upheaval and subsequent revolutions, many of which have originated in public squares or plazas, Parreno wanted to take this gathering place literally within the show. And in a way, Parreno has developed his own communal space in his practice, producing much of his work to date with collaborators. The show features films he made with the help of Hollywood cinematographer Darius Khondji (known for films like Se7en and Midnight in Paris), who Parreno met when working on Zidane, and who he’s since brought on board as cinematographer for all four films in the show, including one premiere, The Crowd, which features the Drill Hall as its setting. As well as Rudy and Khondji, Parreno’s collaboration with set designer Randall Peacock, composer/sound designer Nicolas Becker, and artist Tino Sehgal (in the show, Sehgal employs child actors to play Parreno’s emotionless, robotic Ann Lee) are also incorporated into the exhibition.