Review: Pierrick Sorin “Une vie bien remplie”

Currently on view: Montréal
Pierrick Sorin: Une vie bien remplie
at Great Hall, Darling Foundry
16 June – 28 August 2011

Pierrick Sorin “C’est mignon tout ça” (1993) short film 4 mins. Courtesy of the artist and Darling Foundry

Une Vie Bien Remplie is a collection of works by French videographer Pierrick Sorin, currently at the Darling Foundry. The six pieces on show form a comprehensive twenty-year overview of the artist’s career, spanning most of his thematic realm. Sorin reaches high levels of self-contemplation with each of his films and videos in order to subvert his own artistic relevance and project the buoyancy of his humor, which fluctuates between subtlety and satire.

With “C’est mignon tout ça” (1993) for example, Sorin films himself on all fours in garter belt, high heels and stockings, fondling a monitor inches from his face which is broadcasting a live feed of his own behind. The mise en scène is overdubbed and inter-spliced with a closely-shot interview of our self-portraitist, confessing his difficulties at overcoming shyness and creating meaningful relationships with others. If nothing else, this first piece illustrates the extent to which Sorin uses the versatility of video to comment on this medium of tele-presence that separates as much as unites its protagonists with the rest of the world.

Pierrick Sorin “Titre variable n°2” (1999) Installation view. Courtesy of the artist and Darling Foundry. Photo by Guy L’Heureux

In several pieces the artist parodies stereotypical artistic behaviors, including “22h13 (ce titre est…)” (2010), a performance extract which he directed. As we follow the main character through his creative process (not Sorin this time) his pretentious demeanor progresses so outrageously that it pushes the whole performance on the brink of absurdity. Sorin also mocks the format of TV produced contemporary art documentaries with “Nantes, Projet d’artistes” (2000). This is an elaborately constructed satire in which he portrays the host as well as seven different artists. The 26-minute video uses special effects to render the fictional artworks of each character, again too outlandish to be credible. Both of the above make a laughing-stock out of the contemporary art genre, its scores of humorless, politically correct, and self-praising artists, through an excruciating development of made-up characters, works, and brilliantly random ideas.

The title piece of this exhibition, “Une vie bien remplie” (1994) and also its biggest installation, is composed of eighteen pedestal-mounted monitors showing individual sepia-toned auto-filmages on endless loops. The coined expression describes well Sorin’s obsession with filming his own image, for which he is renown. The monitors, each portraying the artist engrossed in mundane tasks with grave and ridiculous vigor, are spaced out enough for us to wander inside Sorin’s nerve-wracking and meticulously assembled web of minutiae. Here he cradles a baby, there he reads a newspaper, eats yogurt elsewhere, and further along he does calisthenics. Behind the monitors sits a large screen to display a composite animation of all his auto-filmages, playing in sped up, slowed down, twisted and distorted modes. Again Sorin uses video to facilitate his manipulations of time and space, pulling an overwhelming blanket of derision over the monotony of ordinary life.

Pierrick Sorin “Une vie bien remplie” (1993) Installation view. Courtesy of the artist and Darling Foundry. Photo by Guy L’Heureux

Taking the venue into context, this retrospective survey of Sorin’s oeuvre works particularly well within the great hall of Darling Foundry, all lights and windows blacked out. Instead of the usual white cube, the black void of this exhibition space provides a massive, somber room with towering ceilings, which diverts our attention from its architecture, so to experience the work herein as a constellation of floating screens. That said, Sorin’s videos profit from the ambiance, without seeming too dependent on it, as ultimately it is their subject matter which hold us captive. Une Vie Bien Remplie sashays effortlessly between two equally dubious façades: those of conceptual obscurity and the impostor’s comedic cop-out. But in the end, through a varied and entertaining display of artistic clout, Sorin continuously forays towards the collapse of meaning in art, and perhaps even courageously towards the collapse of the aura of the artist.

Text by Yaniya Lee

Pierrick Sorin artist website:

Darling Foundry
745 Ottawa street, Montréal
Québec, H3C 1R8

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