Palais de Tokyo has invited Marguerite Humeau (born in 1986 in France, lives in London) for her first major solo exhibition. The artist has produced an entire series of new work for the project; a physical and sensory experience at the crossroads between research and fiction.
Myths, speculations and fantasies are at the heart of Marguerite Humeau’s artwork. The development of each project includes a phase of extensive research and collaboration with numerous specialists and scientists.
Therefore, as part of her long-term project, The Opera of Prehistoric Creatures (2012), Marguerite Humeau has met palaeontologists, zoologists, veterinarians, engineers, explorers, surgeons, doctors and radiologists with the aim of reviving the songs of ancestral animals, such as the mammoth. An extremely ambitious pursuit, partly due to the scarcity of fossil evidence of their vocal organs, primarily composed of tissue.
“It always starts with a mystery. My research process is for me a bit like a performance: I become a heroine on a quest to resurrect prehistoric creatures, to communicate with alien beings, to revive extinct languages from Cleopatra’s times … like an Indiana Jones in Google times.” 1
The sculptures she then created by reconstructing the larynx using Plexiglas tubes and latex membranes, use sound to set in motion a remarkable journey through time immemorial. “In general for me, sound is an important tool to use, because you feel it in the space – it’s physical and it creates an immersive experience.” 2
At Palais de Tokyo, Marguerite Humeau re-enacts the origin of life and the development of conscious life forms in an ominous atmosphere.
The space has been conceived as a “biological showroom”, inspired by industrial stands of demonstration and exhibition. The floor of the gallery space is covered with a carpet dyed using pigments that reproduce the chemical components of the human being and Datura, a plant associated with original sin. Marguerite Humeau uses it here to convoke the idea of a liquefied or poisoned human body, alluding to the so-called scientific theory of “primordial soup”, linked to the emergence of the first living organisms.
The fruit of the artist’s collaboration with linguists and palaeontologists, a polyphonic choir re-enacts the precise moment when a gene – named FOXP2 – mutated, allowing the vocal cords of the chimpanzee to develop and express themselves in an articulate language; the source of our humanity.
Finally, through research and discussions with several specialists, Marguerite Humeau has imagined a uchronia, in which giant elephant would dominate the planet if Homo sapiens had not existed. With the idea of artificially creating conscious creatures (conscious of themselves), endowed with emotions, she has placed several sound sculptures at the heart of the exhibit. Made from very fine polyurethane foam and almost 3 meters high, the sculptures are positioned on metal structures.
Curator: Rebecca Lamarche-Vadel
1 Artist quote from an interview with Alison Hugill, BerlinArtLink, May 2015
2 Artist quote from an interview with Agnes Gryczkowska, Sleek, May 2015