Sunday, August 27, 2006

Celebration Park - Pierre Huyghe

On the one hand this is a conceptually sophisticated, multi layered installation which reflects the complexity of Huyghe's body of work over the past ten years or so. On the other, it's a crowd pleasing spectacle which could only have come about within today's system of large public art institutions, and uses audience friendly devices like animatronic penguins, puppet shows and dancing doors to seduce the general public. Huyghe talks the talk, that's for sure... just read the short interview printed in the gallery leaflet for some classic "French theory" of the best sort. But whether it actually adds up to much I just don't know.

I think the problem is one of scale. Seen individually, these films (and it is really the films that we are talking about here, the neon signs and sculptures being pretty much redundant) convey a unique and particular take on the world of signs. Amongst the clutter of everyday life or a group exhibition they stand out for their dreamy, thoughtful tone as much as their relationship to the objects of popular culture, myth, fiction, whatever. I remember seeing the Snow White film at Lotta Hammer gallery many years ago and just loving it. Wherever Ann Lee crops up she is a most welcome diversion. But seen all together like this, in spite of the generally clever installation which makes fantastic use of the adaptable spaces of Tate Modern, Huyghe's project seems to dissolve into a cloud of smoke.

Perhaps I'm being too harsh, maybe it's a good show after all. Aren't I always crying out for artists like this to attempt something grand, ambitious and sophisticated? I think the pieces work individually, so go and see them like that, enjoy the films, relax in to the experience. I suspect the problem is simply that a so called 'relational' practice such as this needs to rub against something else in order to function. It needs the reality of a community as in Steamside Day. It needs the prolematics of collaboration as in Ann Lee. It needs the grit of a real life story as in Snow White. On its own in the gallery it is just too isolated from the world to be read as it is intended. This is a practice, perhaps, in the best sense in that it is all about the doing rather than the receiving. And an audience just isn't part of that equation.

The Tate has a great website where you can watch streaming video of the films in the exhibition. Click here


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where is Sarah Kent going?

8:50 am  
Anonymous ArtHound said...

Love marionettes. Did anyone see the fantastic Canal boat parked up in Richmond last year?

11:00 am  
Anonymous canvas art said...

I too love marionettes...didn't Abba once sing about them too?

3:01 pm  

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