In her sculptures, paintings, drawings, installations and videos, Camille Henrot (Paris, 1978) relates popular codes and references to literature, philosophy, anthropology, science, technology and art history, creating works that are at once accessible and elusive, recognizable and deviant.
She is invariably attracted by the dynamics of the relations between history and myth, knowledge and instinct, and the mechanisms that govern the formation of understanding and memory (inevitably rendered unstable in the age of expanded and digital filing). Constantly, and almost unawares, these works become reflections on artistic creation itself, and the ways it represents our relation with the world, as in the video-encyclopedic work Grosse Fatigue, with which she won the 2013 Leone d’Argento as the best young artist at the 55th Venice Biennale.
The moon, perpetually moving, continually affects our planet, our moods, our imagination and our history. Ever since ancient times the moon has been a symbol of fertility and good luck, as well as of mystery and melancholy. The Greeks identified it with the goddess Selene, the daughter of Hyperion and Theia, the sister of Helios (the Sun) and Eos (Aurora), while the Muslims deemed its creation a miracle by Muhammad. The “milk moon,” the full moon in May that coincides with the spring awakening, as a prelude to the summer season, is a lunar apparition – like the “black moon” or “red moon” – associated with the concepts of abundance and creation. Henrot’s exhibition at the Madre, entitled Luna di latte (“Milk Moon”), curated by Cloé Perrone, explores the cultural and symbolic meanings associated with the “day of the moon,” the Monday, reinterpreting it, as the dark side of the night, traditionally associated with it as a prelude to prolific and fantastic inventions, which the artist has decided to share with the public. The division of time into the days of the week, and the meanings historically attributed to them are reinterpreted by Henrot in this exhibition – as happened in the artist’s previous projects, with mythological narratives or astrological charts – as pure conventions and human fictions, instruments for imposing order on the chaos of existence and giving it a meaning, in this case, the human need to scan, measure, possess and interpret time. All this will naturally start from Monday: a day tainted by melancholy but also when we renew our faith in providence. At the beginning of each week we perceive the potential for profound change, a desire for metamorphosis to emerge and assert as well as a propensity to withdraw from the world in apparent unproductivity: yet this is the premise for creative inspiration and a spiritual revolution.
Mondays melancholic ideational and creative dynamism thus develops into a continuous tension between action and inaction, between ordinary and extraordinary, a parameter and metaphor for the inspiration of the artist herself.
Laid out as the presentation of a hundred drawings and collages, a work comprising seven model sculptures and a mural decoration also devised by the artist, the exhibition converts some of the museum’s galleries from public and neutral space-time (the white-cube museum) into the private space-time of Henrot’s work (her studio), a place and time of continuous creation, as was the hotel room where Henri Matisse painted in his bed, or as Henrot’s Rome studio also was in 2015-16. A decaying apartment undergoing renovation now becomes the threshold between night and day, sleeping and waking, shadow and light, project and work. In this transition, the works presented in Naples likewise offer a selection of preparatory material, never shown before, linked to Monday, a solo exhibition at the Memmo Foundation in Rome, a project that will develop to comprise all the days of the week for Carte Blanche at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, a solo exhibition to be held in the autumn of 2017.
Deciding to share with the public the preliminary stages of her other exhibitions and make visible an ongoing project, Henrot introduces us not only into the intimacy of her working environment, but into her ideational and creative process, revealing materials generally intended to remain secret: sketches, notes, evidence of what might be and perhaps is not (possible works that may never be realized, ideas on paper or variants by dimensions, plastic modeling, coloring or sculptural material). In interstitial works like these we can trace the deep motivations underlying Henrot’s works and precisely from her wish to share these projects, which the artist shares with the public of the exhibition at the Madre, a true studio-exhibit related to both the project already presented at the Memmo Foundation in Rome – which is, in fact, its origin and palimpsest of the Madre show – and its further developments that will take their final form only in a year’s time at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. Hybrid works, fluctuating between finished and unfinished, between the emergence of an idea and its progressive shaping, recreate the atmosphere of the work in the studio and are defined as ever-changing provisional allegories of emotional and intellectual states related to the theme explored by the exhibition, the “moon” day of Monday. Before us appears an almost human figure unable to get out of bed, or a character who stares at a screen hoping for a miraculous message, or a podium that embodies the impossibility of knowing its place in the race… The whole exhibition is defined in this way as a hypothetical visit to the studio of the artist at work, reshaping the museum into a dreamlike and suspended welcoming state: a seductive and subtle experience that Henrot invites us to partake of with her at the Madre museum.
Camille Henrot was born in Paris in 1978. She has presented solo exhibitions at the New Museum, New York (2014), the New Orleans Museum of Art (2013), the Schinkel Pavilion, Berlin (2014), and took part in the 13th Biennale de Lyon (2015), the 9th Taipei Biennale (2014) and 10th Gwangju Biennale (2014). Her solo exhibition, The Pale Fox, at the Chisenhale Gallery in London (2014), was subsequently presented at Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen (2014), Bétonsalon, Paris (2014), Westfälischer Kunstverein, Münster (2015) and the König Galerie, Berlin (2015). In 2015, she received the prize in the first edition of the Edvard Munch Art Award. In 2014 she won the Nam June Paik Award and in 2013 the Leone d’Argento (“Silver Lion”) for best young artist at the 55th Venice Biennale. In 2016, together with her participation in the 20th Sydney Biennale and the 9th Berlin Biennale, she co-curated the Volcano Extravaganza event on Stromboli, while in 2017 the Palais de Tokyo in Paris and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles will devote two solo exhibitions to her.