Camille Henrot

13 Aug – 06 Sep 2013

Best-known for her videos and animated films combining drawn art, music and occasionally scratched or reworked cinematic images, Camille Henrot’s work blurs the traditionally hierarchical categories of art history. Her recent work, adapted into the diverse media of sculpture, drawing, photography and, as always, film, considers the fascination with the ‘other’ and ‘elsewhere’ in terms of both geography and sexuality. The artist's impure, hybrid objects cast doubt upon the linear and partitioned transcription of Western history and highlight its borrowings and grey areas. 

On view in this exhibition, Henrot’s first in India, is the film, The Strife of Love in a Dream (2011, 11min 37 sec), commissioned by the Centre Pompidou for its show, ‘Paris-Delhi-Bombay’. The film is inspired both by Carl Jung’s idea of India as a "dreamlike world" and by Sudhir Kakar’s analysis of India as “the unconscious of the West”.  Made in India and France, it is composed in a braided structure, interweaving a pilgrimage, the production of anti-anxiety medication and the extraction of snake venom, all of which are linked to human strategies of defense against fear. In this film, as in numerous other popular myths, fear is incarnated by an animal. The image of the snake, an ambivalent symbol in many cultures (both lethal and protective), is used as a recurring symbol of the most archetypal fears and their ability to be transformed in order to take part in the process of creation. The snake appears furtively through various works of art, as an obsessional, baroque and versatile icon. It becomes a thread between the East and the West, and contradicts the theoretical separation between these two cultural spheres.

Presented alongside, Tropics of Love (2011) is a series (based on a collection of photographs of Western soldiers and sailors dressed as Polynesian women) of ink drawings on paper of various figures, hybrids of male and female, human, vegetal and animal, with prominent genitals. The series occasionally incorporates inkjet images of exotic landscapes, and the polymorphous figures, drawn with quick, light brushstrokes, sometimes overlap with one another or are cut into pieces and collaged together to the point of near-abstraction. The word ‘tropics’ is meant to evoke thoughts of extreme limits, the limits of imagination, and it is connected to the question of exoticism and the fantasy of heaven on earth. Multiplied by dozens of expressive drawings, the pornographic theme in Tropics of Love develops, expands and even exhausts itself, as if driven to its own limits, its own ‘tropics’. The erotic transcends its original purpose of aesthetic enjoyment to extend towards exoticism; in this expansive movement, this overflowing, it seems to go beyond all traditional limits of gender, identity and species.

Camille Henrot’s work has been exhibited in France at the Centre Pompidou, the Paris Museum of Modern Art, the Palais de Tokyo, the Espace Paul Ricard, the Jeu de Paume, the Cartier Foundation, the Louis Vuitton Cultural Space, the Foundation Maeght, the collections of Saint-Cyprien, the Museum of Fine Arts of Bordeaux, Crac Alsace, and abroad at Sungkok Art Museum in Seoul, the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, the Center for Contemporary Images in Geneva, the Hara Museum in Tokyo, Oi Futuro Cultural Center in Rio de Janeiro, and the 55th Venice Biennale, where she was awarded the Silver Lion.