Pierrick Sorin

Buenos Aires

Pierrick Sorin: Aquarium au danseuses (2010): Teatro optico. Images courtesy the artist and Museo de Artes Moderno, Buenos Aires.Pierrick Sorin: Aquarium au danseuses (2010): Teatro optico. Images courtesy the artist and Museo de Artes Moderno, Buenos Aires.

By Sky Goodden

Pierrick Sorin
Museo des Artes Moderno de Buenos Aires
May 26 – July 4, 2011

There is something fitting about the location of Pierrick Sorin’s recent retrospective in Buenos Aires. Ensconced in one of the city’s oldest pumping stations and former tobacconists, what is now the Museo de Artes Moderno de Buenos Aires hosts the French artist’s repetitious and circuitous production in seeming concert with the building’s history of toiling manufacture. But where Sorin’s concise retrospective of video, stage design and optical theatre reverberates with the building’s working history, so too does it echo its reinvention. The exhibition Tandem Paris-Buenos Aires saturates the museum with Sorin’s image, but the artist – vaudevillian and elastic – never plays the same character twice.

La Pietra del Paragone (2007): Mise-en-scene for Théâtre du Châlet.Une vie bien remplie (1994): video installation.Sorin soared to international fame in the late 1980s with his “auto-filmages,” flitting videos numbering the trite actions of everyday life and creative enterprise. In these parodying skits, a series of which is exhibited here in a massive video installation titled Une vie bien remplie (1994), acts of necessary self-perpetuation silently click along and repeat themselves. At once sped-up and sepia-tinged, Sorin’s videos layer fastidious self-obligation (dish-washing, letter-writing, shirt-changing, cigarette-smoking) with timeworn fatigue. In the end, his actions are often circuited with their own undoing – he finds the dish is still dirty, the letter's no good, the shirt bears a stain – and an air of pathetic tragedy curls around the burlesque.

Importantly, among this scaffold of screened self-portraits, Sorin includes himself making art. With the camera staged in his meager backyard, he runs wildly between the lens and the foreground, gesturing with aimless bravado before returning for repeated self-critique. Here, too, is a fruitless daily action – but one, of course, resulting in our pleasure.

A decade later, Sorin’s work evolves into more elusive and diverse media, with this same theme of restless production postured through dancing holograms and operatic set designs. Sorin’s anti-hero still consumes himself in the pursuit of difference and distraction, but with much grander toys. His tricked-up but essentially vacant self-portraits dance across turntables and vogue behind aquariums teeming with his absent-minded collaborators: goldfish. Scenes from Sorin’s high-budget opera set designs play on loop, and film excerpts number the artist’s limitless proliferation of self-consuming antics. But, even the most elaborate of these projects maintains the transparency of its manufacture. His mise-en-scene for Rossini’s La Pietra del Paragone, for example, positions its protagonists in front of blue-screens, constructing their fictions, which in sequence coalesce on screens scaling the background. Similarly, his optical theatres reveal their simple, if magical, designs in the peripheries of their frame.

But, if Sorin’s legerdemain is one of dropping the cards, a suspension of disbelief is still somehow easy to come by. We play with him, watch him dance on records and spin our desires through his aimless frivolity. We seek out his divine fiction, his unlikely play. It is our work to do, in the end, just as it is his to create - but damn if it isn’t fun work to do.

An exhibition of Sorin's work appears at the Darling Foundry in Montreal until August 28.

Sky GooddenSky Goodden is a Toronto-based art writer, editor and curator. She is the
Co-Editor of the contemporary culture publication, ONE HOUR EMPIRE, and was
the 2010 Editorial Resident at Canadian Art. Currently, she holds the title
of Publications Coordinator for the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, while
continuing to write for Canadian Art, C Magazine and others. She is
currently writing a book on artist residencies tentatively titled A Floating
Academy: Artist Residencies in Contemporary Art.