Pierre Huyghe, 'Untitled (Human Mask)', 2014. Film, color, sound. 19 minutes. Courtesy the artist; Marian Goodman Gallery, New York; Hauser & Wirth, London; Esther Schipper, Berlin; and Anna Lena Films, Paris.© Pierre Huyghe
(Untitled) Human Mask
At Papirøen Copenhagen Contemporary presented a major work by the world-famous French artist Pierre Huyghe: the video installation (Untitled) Human Mask (2014). Set in a Japanese coastal city devastated by a tsunami, this video work takes us to an eerie world where fiction and reality, biology and culture mesh and merge.
Pierre Huyghe about Untitled (Human Mask)
Human Mask is a bachelor rite. A monkey wearing a mask of a young woman, trained as a servant, unconscious enactor of a human labour; and a drone, an unmanned camera, programmed to perform tasks, inhabit the same landscape of Fukushima, just after the natural and technological disaster. The monkey, left alone in a restaurant, executes, like an automaton, the gesture it had been trained to do, in a pointless pattern of repetition and variation. Trapped inside a human representation, it became its sole mediator. Sometimes enacting the role of a servant, sometimes inoperative, endlessly waiting, subject to boredom, left between instruction and instinct. Behind the mask, a descendant of a common ancestor, in front of it a drone, a human’s natural extension.
In the dystopian setting of Untitled (Human Mask) Pierre Huyghe emphasizes the human impact on nature. Perhaps the work also reflects our present-day Anthropocene era; a time when mankind has become a force that changes the planet, affecting the physical and biological systems of Earth. Huyghe’s work shows us an apocalyptic world in which humanity appears to have been eradicated, and where the monkey’s lingering training is the only relic of human civilisation.
Untitled (Human Mask) captures a number of significant themes in Pierre Huyghe’s body of work. The enigmatic and uncanny situations found in the film suggest a collapse between both biological and cultural distinctions.
About Pierre Huyghe
Pierre Huyghe (b.1962 in Paris) lives and works in New York and Chile. Huyghe is one of the most important contemporary artists today. His works blur the boundaries between supposed opposites: the living and the inanimate, the real and the symbolic; animal, man and machine. Ever since the early 1990s Huyghe has worked with the exhibition format as a mode of presentation, challenging its conventional forms and setups. Like a choreographer of art he compiles and conceives of each work as a dynamic whole that exists and changes independently of our presence – like an autonomous organism. Pierre Huyghe has presented countless solo exhibitions, including at MoMA, New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; LACMA, Los Angeles; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Tate Modern, London; and Ludwig Museum, Cologne.