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March 6, 2016 | by  | in Arts Splash Visual Arts | [ssba]

Breathe in, breathe out. Click, and begin.

Grosse Fatigue by Camille Henrot
City Gallery Wellington
Closes March 16, 2016

“In the beginning there was no earth, no water—nothing. There was a single hill called Nunne Chaha.

In the beginning everything was dead.

In the beginning there was nothing; nothing at all. No light, no life, no movement no breath.

In the beginning there was an immense unit of energy.

In the beginning there was nothing but shadow and only darkness and water and the great god Bumba.

In the beginning were quantum fluctuations.”

—Grosse Fatigue by Camille Henrot


Let’s start with blue. Blue, the colour of the heavens. The uninterrupted bottom of the ocean. Yves Klein blue. The infinite. The blue of street signs and police uniforms. Ultramarine and facebook. Midnight or royal?

In the beginning there are blue walls and blue carpet. It is in this blue room that the video essay Grosse Fatigue by Camille Henrot attempts to tell the history, or rather histories, of the universe. Weaving together creation stories and mythology from religious and oral traditions with scientific details, the resulting narrative is a desperate and fanatic account of origin.

The blue is fitting, calming, and all encompassing. It recalls both infinite knowledge and wealth, law and order. From the beginning, images start to appear upon a cosmic background, the cliched kind that comes with a brand new Mac. A steady heartbeat of a rhythm accompanies the narrator, who in the style of spoken word poetry, recites the journey from nothing, through birth, chaos, and towards a violent relaxation.

The work is the result a residency at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. Filmed footage of corridors, drawers, and specimens are layered with found images and disparate references. Space leggings are compared to Jackson Pollock, indigenous artifacts are (dis)placed on Pantone backdrops by hands with candy painted nails. Framed within pop-up-windows and computer interactions, the layering of imagery dissolves cultural contexts and systems of categorisation into an onslaught of idiosyncratic juxtapositions.

It is an almost mocking tone that the narrator vocalises, “and God said, let there be light!” Henrot acknowledges she is interested in the guilt of anthropology, in the destruction that accompanies the ways in which Western society has historically gathered and collected objects. Grosse Fatigue places violence as part of both the creation of the world and the creation of the world’s recorded history. As cultural objects are re-archived into Henrot’s network of images, her emphasis on the formal properties of colour, line, and shape, as a means of connecting information, further dislocates these objects from their own histories. Instead, Henrot creates a mirror for our current climate of information onslaught. It is a process all too familiar, seeing a million search windows and applications open on a single screen in the naive hope that if all is seen, understanding will follow. The internet may place the world at our fingertips, but it is a world of snapshots filtered through predetermined algorithms and intentions.


What’s on

River of Fundament

A film by Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler

March 19, 8.00pm

Adam Art Gallery, as part of the New Zealand Festival


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