Uncle Neaw, Pilar, Rirkrit, Then Me

Philippe Parreno has two installations running concurrently in London this December, one of which is “Uncle Neaw, Pilar, Rirkrit, Then Me” installed at the lovely Pilar Corrias gallery in Oxford Circus.

The gallery entrance is visually arresting in its simplicity. A glass fronted foyer is completely bare save for the white walls and a flickering overhead light. It really sets it apart from neighbouring establishments. On entering the foyer through a glass door, a second door set into the back of the foyer silently opens, akin to a portal, allowing you into the gallery space proper. What a brilliant way to invite the viewer into a tranquil sanctuary within busy inner London.

The first installation “Uncle Neaw” is a video of an old man, presumably his uncle, set in a jungle. The only visible portion of the man is his head. He is continually restless, moving this way and that, chewing thoughtfully, scratching at something, but always he comes back to the centre of the frame and stares down the barrel of the lens right at you. There is something disconcerting about the scenario as you begin to develop an interaction with this fictitious onscreen character. Its the constant staring at your, how no matter what he is distracted by momentarily his gaze will always come back to meet yours. Is he judging you? Are you judging him?

The second installation held downstairs is a collection of slideshows. I was only able to stay for “Pilar” which unsurprisingly is about the gallery itself. The series starts with a woman in a park (possibly Hyde Park) holding a blackboard with the words “I receive a call from a curator asking for funding for an artists exhibition” and it continues with the message changing each frame to tell the story. Frankly, I found it difficult to maintain interest with this. The photography style was very much “here’s a snapshot” and several were well executed using the natural lighting afforded by the late afternoon sun but the series plodded along too slowly, really the slides needed to be cycled quicker.

As far as exhibitions go, if you have a spare thirty minutes then by all means drop by but I wouldn’t be in a huge rush to make it. Personally, although I wasn’t blown away by the work, there was just enough there for me to want to see Parreno’s other installation at the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens.

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