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Pierrick Sorin and the city of Nantes

Parody of the Artist as a stereotype, caricature of the documentary genre, a questioning of public commissions…Pierrick Sorin, French videographer, breaks all the rules in his piece “Nantes: Projets d’Artistes”.

Commissioned by Nantes in the year 2000, “Projets d’Artistes” was originally intended to advertise the cultural wonders of the city, as well as to celebrate the new technological advances that came with the turning of the millennium. However, following his burlesque style, Sorin created a fake reportage featuring seven international artists and their big projects, which were so absurd that the documentary put the city in a tricky situation. It would seem that either the city was aware of the spoof and approved a vain portrayal of Nantes to support Sorin’s artistic beliefs –which I highly doubt- or it was a mere instrument for the artist to mock the idea of public commissions.

Thus British artist Ricky Pierson transforms the inhabitants of the city into holograms at the tramway station. The Hungarian Rôsk Nieprick uses the latest nanotechnology to make a levitating water fountain, and the German Krisp Röniker creates a rainbow that “magically” appears in the sky whenever the phone conversations of the people in Nantes seem happy.

Ricky Pierson and his tramway holograms.

Rôsk Nieprick and her floating fountain.

Krisp Röniker and her creepy rainbow that spies on people’s conversations.

But it turns out that all these fancy artists are no other than Pierrick Sorin himself, playing the role of fictitious characters whose disguises keep degrading as the reportage goes on.

Finally, Sorin appears as himself with the most controversial project of all: a series of naked statues representing him are situated facing the rails of the local tramway. When the train passes by, they create a sort of animation for the passenger, who through the window sees the statue come to life, and change sex (from masculine to feminine genitalia). 


Pierrick Sorin and his nude transformation.

It is this final transformation that tips the viewer and reveals the ultimate farce. The fact that the real Pierrick Sorin documents himself explaining his “animated transformation” –and thus by extension deconstructing the frame within a frame setting of the entire documentary- calls into question the public’s perception of art, and its scope, as well as the status of images and video in general. 

You can watch the French version (only one I could find) here.

- Elena Kendall