Born 1978 in Paris, France Lives and works in New York, USA
Camille Henrot questions and challenges the traditional categorisation of art history, melding genres and materials to create hybrid objects that emphasise the way western historical perspectives borrow and appropriate from other cultures. Perhaps best known for her videos, films and animations, Henrot’s practice also extends to sculpture, drawing and photography, combining diverse media and anthropological research methods into works that analyse established systems of recording and presenting information, providing new links between disparate cultures and locations throughout history.
Grosse Fatigue, 2013, seeks to tell the story of the creation of the universe from a computer desktop. The 13-minute video condenses months of research the artist conducted during her residency at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Drawing from the realms of natural history, physics and anthropology in her investigations, Henrot collected together a great number of Creation myths from diverse religious and cultural traditions, including Christian, Buddhist, Kabbalah, Navajo and Inuit, to name a few. To connect the various narratives together in a single structure, she worked with writer Jacob Bromberg to place sentences from different myths side-by-side, sometimes in direct opposition to each other, to form a poem. Set to a propulsive hip-hop beat by musician Joakim Bouaziz and delivered with an impassioned fervour by slam poet Akwetey Orraca-Tetteh, the poem forms the backbone of the work.
Screen captures and video files pop up, accumulate and disappear across a wildly expanding visual field. Chains of formal resemblances emerge in what the artist describes as an ‘intuitive unfolding of knowledge’ that juxtaposes items hidden away in the Smithsonian collection with images found on the internet and scenes filmed by the artist in locations ranging from her own home to the museum’s offices and a pet shop. Henrot explains: ‘When you look at a cluster of images on a desktop, your mind makes these connections, not because there is a connection but because your brain needs to resolve the images.’Certainly, this frenetic visual layering can be exhausting to process, as in the Grosse Fatigue of the title. Yet, this feeling of being bombarded with information is in line with our way of being in the digital age, trying to comprehend an endless cacophony of data. In a sense, in its attempt to capture the universe within a matter of minutes, the work’s intentions were always geared towards failure. Instead, as an experiment it shatters any pretence of a fully integrated system of knowledge and exposes the limits of one person’s physical capacity.
Henrot also presents a selection of large-scale bronze sculptural works, offering a glimpse of the breadth of her practice. Their voluptuous forms, delighting in a sheer tactility and physicality, provide a striking counterpoint to Grosse Fatigue, a work that seems to remain forever just out of grasp.
Camille Henrot has exhibited widely internationally, with solo presentations including ‘Camille Henrot’, Metro Pictures, New York (2015); ‘The Pale Fox’, Chisenhale Gallery (travelling international exhibition), London (2014–15); and ‘The Restless Earth’, New Museum, New York (2014). Selected group exhibitions include ‘La vie moderne’, 13th Biennale de Lyon (2015); ‘Scenes for a New Heritage: Contemporary Art from the Collection’, MoMA, New York (2015); and ‘Une brève histoire de l’avenir’, Musée du Louvre, Paris (2015).