The Crowd was shot inside the Drill Hall of the Park Avenue Armory and later presented on the occasion of a solo show the artist held at the New York venue from 11 June – 2 August 2015. The building is considered an important monument of American engineering, and echoes the architecture of large European train stations built during the early 1900s.
The camera films 300 hundred New Yorkers, some of whom have been hypnotized. As they move through the space their attention seems to be drawn to the sound of a piano, and this is precisely the event that drives all these individuals to gather together around a more luminous area where hypothetically an invisible pianist is producing the melody. Shadows, bodies of smoke and clouds of suspended particles weave around images of bodies in movement, ethereal presences in the space. The entire scene seems to evoke the phantasmagoria, an ancient technique based on the illusionary interplay of light and smoke that was employed in nineteenth-century pre-cinema performances.
The Crowd illustrates the relationships between presence and absence that are woven throughout Parreno’s oeuvre: on one hand, the presence of shade in the space seems to substitute that of the individuals – captured in an almost otherworldly experience – on the other the artist reflects on the viewer’s experience within an exhibition in which the confines between those who are observing and the object of their observation become increasingly evanescent.