Camille Henrot – 55th Venice Art Biennale silver lion winner – on show at Gucci Museo in Florence
Gucci Museo, whose doors opened in Florence in September 2011 at the renovated 14th century Palazzo della Mercanzia in Piazza della Signoria, on October 3rd earlier this month has launched a new show featuring the multi-award winner French artist Camille Henrot. The 55th Venice Art Biennale silver lion prize-winner as most promising young artist is the author of Grosse Fatigue, a 13 min-long video featuring the original music score from composer Joakim and the reading of a long spoken word poem by slam poet Akwetey Orraca-Tetteh .
Camille Henrot, who co-wrote the syncopated rhythm poem with writer Jacob Bromberg, presents her personal re-elaboration of the omni-comprehensive universal knowledge, spanning from the book of Genesis and the creation of the universe, through to the birth of human-kind, life, exhaustion of natural resources and death.
As she put it in a recent interview to the magazine Art Press: “Grosse Fatigue is a visual encyclopaedia, showing the exhaustion of natural resources, an encyclopaedia without glory, a melancholy vision of failure.”
The video was co-produced by the Parisian gallery Kamel Mennour and was shot at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, where Henrot carried out a research programme. The artist mainly explored and investigated the anthropology and ethnographic archives of the institute, filming researchers manipulating dead birds and all sorts of collected objects at the sites of the National History Museum and at the American Indian Museum.
The objects preserved in the latter are key to this project, as they were collected during the wars against the indigenous Indian people, creating the paradox of the conservation process as being the cause for the loss of awareness about these cultures and ultimately their disappearance, rather than a drive for the stop of the mass slaughter. “Preservation and conservation are paradoxically acts of destruction, and this classification anticipates the end of the world as we know it” Camille Henrot, Cinemascope Sept 2013
This sense-charged film explores many different notions pivoting on the core utopia of the all-encompassing comprehension of the universe: the ability for human beings to universalize knowledge, the possibility for the artist to grasp and represent knowledge, the meaning of collecting and cataloguing, a well as the vision of museums as representations of the outside world through their collections.
According to the artist the film is an experience of density, given the presence on the screen of multiple images at once following one another at the speed of the hip-hop-esque rhythm: the audience is encouraged to watch the video more than once in order to confront with such a load of information and take the proper time to digest the remarkable intensity of the narration.
Being submerged by a massive flood of images is what actually happens in our every day life – not without reason we’re all labelled as the Wikipedia generation – so the video provides us with a frame for understating and making sense of the present, as long as the viewer has the inclination to yield to it.
During the opening days at the 55th Venice Biennale I was not able to fully appreciate the power of the narrative, which I did at the exhibition opening at the Gucci Museo on October 2nd. One has to have the patience of watching this whirl of tumultuous entropy in an unprejudiced frame of mind, in order to enjoy the refinement of the multi-level content representation: the laptop desktop as the universe and the multiple windows as the heterogeneous mix of scientific, religious, historical, folkloric and mythological sources, the quasi-schizophrenic attitude of the artist seeking to sort out an immense amount of material and the frustration of this vane task, all stressed by the pressing rhythm of the spoken word poem, giving us a sense of helplessness together with the urge for a deeper awareness.
Piazza della Signoria – Firenze
October 3 2014 – February 8th 2015