Philippe Parreno Takes Over the Park Avenue Armory With Light, Sound, Film & Magic


With its ridiculously high ceilings and taking up 55,000 square feet in all, The Wade Thompson Drill Hall at the historic Seventh Regiment Armory is one of the city's most cavernous exhibition/performance spaces, and, subsequently, also one of the most challenging to fill. In fact, it's more evocative of some old-world train station (or, obviously, a late 19th-century militia marching ground) than your usual art gallery or concert hall. And yet for nearly a decade now the non-profit Park Avenue Armory Conservancy has been bringing a wide array of cultural works and entertainments to the Drill Hall, many of which have been wildly successful.

Among the most popular: the Royal Shakespeare Company's six-week residency, complete with a replication of the Globe Theatre; the thrilling concert series by British band the xx, which was as much about the (lovely) music as it was about the lighting and staging; and, my personal favorite of the art installations, Ann Hamilton's brilliantly fun "swings" show, The Event of a Thread, for which the artist hung 42 double-wide wooden swings from the ceiling, creating crazy-long pendulum arcs for us giddy participants.


Philippe Parreno at Park Avenue Armory

Now there's a new show here at the Armory, Philippe Parreno's oddly spelled “H {N)Y P N(Y} OSIS” (it's pronounced just like the regular "hypnosis), which is less a single installation and more a series of thematically linked–albeit vaguely–pieces. Included in the multimedia presentation are five movies, ranging from 4 minutes to 24 minutes in length; live performances (I witnessed a musician playing one of the three pianos in the room, as well as a strange spoken-word thing where two young girls came out of nowhere and whispered things I couldn't really hear); 27 light sculptures suspended from the ceiling, that flicker and blink in conjunction with one of the many soundscapes playing, both amplified and by spooky-ish "player piano"; and a huge piece aptly called Bleachers that sits at the eastern end of the Drill Hall and slowly rotates. The whole thing seems kind of random, but “H {N)Y P N(Y} OSIS” plays on repeat for a tightly choreographed two-hour cycle. Not that there's any sort of start time–just show up whenever–but if you want to see it all, plan on being here a while.


Enter The Lights & Magic of H {N)Y P N(Y} OSIS

I'll admit that while I enjoyed the overall atmosphere of  “H {N)Y P N(Y} OSIS”, and liked both of the movies I saw–they were two of the shorter ones–particularly "June 8, 1968, 2009", which combines devastating historical footage shot from Robert Kennedy's funeral train with a contemporary revisit of the landscape, this sort of thing requires more patience from the viewer than perhaps I'm equipped to give. There were plenty of folks sitting in chairs listening to the avant-garde-ish compositions, but I'm generally too restless for that. Fortunately, moving around and taking photos is encouraged, even though it feels a bit awkward during the musical performances. Park Avenue Armory members should certainly check out Parreno's  “H {N)Y P N(Y} OSIS”, but if you're making a special trip and paying $15, just know the wow factor–which really is key to filling this massive space–is a bit low.               


For More Information on Philippe Parreno's H {N)Y P N(Y} OSIS

Philippe Parreno: “H {N)Y P N(Y} OSIS” will be at the Park Avenue Armory through August 2. The entrance to the Armory is located on Park Avenue between 67th and 66th Streets, and is open on Tuesday through Thursday from 12:00 noon to 8:00 p.m,, and Friday until 10:00 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.


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