Philippe Parreno: Two Automatons for One Duet (“My Room Is Another Fish Bowl,” 1996–2016, and “With a Rhythmic Instinction to Be Able to Travel beyond Existing Forces of Life,” 2014)



Photo of an installation of metallic, brightly colored, fish-shaped balloons in a room with white walls and wooden floors.

Philippe Parreno. Installation view of My Room Is Another Fish Bowl. Art Institute of Chicago, February 3–April 15, 2018. Centennial Major Acquisitions Income, Alfred and May Tiefenbronner Memorial, Laura T. Magnuson Acquisition, Benjamin Argile Memorial, General Acquisitions Endowment, Maurice D. Galleher Endowment funds; Wirt D. Walker Trust. © Philippe Parreno. Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels.

Artist Philippe Parreno (French, born 1963) creates spaces that allow us to speculate about alternate worlds and states of being. This exhibition pairs two immersive installations by Parreno that explore how objects and environmental factors left to chance actively shape human behavior and the perception of the passage of time.

My Room Is Another Fish Bowl consists of helium-filled fish shapes that have been delicately weighted to float at different heights. Circulating around these floating objects, the visitors have an experience that may be equated or contrasted with that of the fish moving aimlessly within the gallery. In art and words, Parreno has frequently proposed the exhibition as a film without a camera. Here he casts museumgoers to move in a carefully staged gallery space. The fish move with the gallery’s air currents, visitors enter and exit, and natural light from adjacent windows shifts continually according to the weather and time of day. The “film” lasts the length of the exhibition. No two individuals’ experience of the space will be identical, nor will the ever-changing installation configuration repeat itself. The drifting Mylar forms and the museum visitors act upon and define each other, rendering both groups neither purely social nor wholly natural.

Parreno’s With a Rhythmic Instinction to Be Able to Travel beyond Existing Forces of Lifecombines drawings with a mathematical model, using modern technology to animate a historical concept. The drawings comprise over 200 unique images of fireflies. The model is the Game of Life, created by British mathematician John Horton Conway in 1970. A so-called zero-player game, the Game of Life has participants create an initial configuration of “live” cells in a grid. They then simply observe how the cells evolve following the rules of the game—for instance, a live cell with fewer than two neighbors dies. Parreno established specific correspondences between his drawings and various algorithms in the game, creating this animation in which fireflies live and die. The result is a study in technology, environment, and systems open to chance.


This exhibition is made possible by the Stuart Family Fund.


Sign up for our enewsletter to receive updates.

Learn more

Image actions