This year, Palais de Tokyo has given “Carte Blanche” to French-born artist Camille Henrot, whose exhibition entitled “Days are Dogs” is opening on October 18, 2017, coinciding with Fiac Art Week. On this occasion, she is guest editor-in-chief of Palais Magazine #26, devoted entirely to her project and including an interview by Daria de Beauvais, curator of the show.
Daria de Beauvais: Can you tell me about the origin of the title you’ve chosen for your carte blanche at the Palais de Tokyo, “Days Are Dogs”?
Camille Henrot: The exhibition deals with problems of everyday life, particularly our relationship to dependency. The title comes from the expression in English for a difficult, tiring day, a “dog day.” I’m interested in the social and political relationships the word “dog connotes in expressions like “a dog’s life,” “dogsbody,”1 “work like a dog,” “underdog” (one of the drawings in the Bad Dad series is directly inspired by this expression). The dog is a familiar sign. It’s a sign of what connects us but also a sign of alienation, difficulty, frustration. Dogs are always hungry… They’re pretty much everywhere. The dog is a banal, repeated index of our own attachment, our own dependency. Dependency gives shape to our lives, like night and day. The dog suffers what comes to him, he gives himself up to fate, a bit like Bloom in Joyce’s Ulysses, who gives himself over to the vagaries of his day with a sort of passivity. The stock character of my exhibition is pretty passive. But this submission is also a kind of freedom. In the end, the submission of the dog is feigned, it’s opportunistic, sometimes affectionate or playful. It can also be a friendly sign of the possibility for adapting to everyday life, to life’s flow. So the title of the exhibition is there underlying an attachment to life, despite its problems or difficulties.
DB: Your project for the carte blanche is divided into seven distinct parts, corresponding to the days of the week. Why this narrative choice?
CH: The week presides over the most personal aspects of a life: the frequency at which you work or rest, at which you meet the needs of social life as well as your own health. The week was a way to approach everything that structures human life: work and sleep, diet, dependencies, religion, e-mails, family, money… As Joyce says in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, it’s a question of “transmuting the daily bread of experience into the radiant body of everliving life.” On top of all this, as an arbitrary narrative structure, the week has taken on a different importance with the spread of social media. Unlike the months, which are based on the lunar cycle, the days of the week are a completely artificial and also colonising structure: first universally applied as the structure of work, then, with the Internet, it gives everyone the feeling of living at the same emotional rhythm… like a horoscope. Most people have forgotten that Monday comes from the moon, Tuesday from Mars, Wednesday from Mercury, Thursday from Jupiter, and Friday from Venus.2 But this mythological content is unconsciously present in the emotions that are attached to these days and it reemerges in the way people label the moments of their life on the internet. What does the hashtag #Monday mean? A state of laziness, a refusal of obligations… Digital culture is creating a relationship to time that, even as it is shared on a much greater scale, is also more subjective. The days of the week no longer evoke the organisation of our duties as much as an introspective diary of our moods. The organisation of the exhibition in this way is also a means to escape the obligations of structure through the apparent submission to an order so arbitrary that it becomes playful. This is how Roland Barthes justified the recourse to alphabetical order for his seminar, Comment vivre ensemble. The more artificial, banal, and well-known the structure, the more freedom can be found in it. It’s a narrative strategy. The narrative of an exhibition shouldn’t be at all imposing on the visitor. It should circulate in a subterranean way, just under the surface, sotto voce. In the work The Pale Fox (2014- 2015), which is placed near the beginning of the exhibition, there is a piling up of principles, creating a sort of hyper-structure. Obeying rules “to the letter” is also a way of disobeying.
DB: You’ve defined the exhibition as a “collection of affects,” but also as a private space. What do you mean by this?
CH: I was interested in making the Palais de Tokyo into a familiar space, creating a space that would be less of a public agora and more of a place where reflexion and intimacy are made possible. My work makes use of emotions, it aims at a quite meditative kind of intro spection or reflection and you need protected environments for that. I rarely make big spectacles, except maybe with my films, but all films are already an interior spectacle, they come at you like in a dream and linger in your memory like an experience, with all the gaps this implies, and the chances you have to remember, to ruminate afterwards on what happened.
Find the all interview on Magazine PALAIS #26.
- Camille Henrot, Splendid Isolation, 2015, resin cast with video and telephone components, 14 3/8 x 19 3/8 x 2 1/4 inches (36.5 x 49.2 x 5.7 cm) phone, 35 3/8 x 19 3/8 x 2 1/4 inches (89.9 x 49.2 x 5.7 cm) overall, courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures (New York); kamel mennour (Paris/London); König Galerie (Berlin). © ADAGP, Paris 2017
- Camille Henrot, Is he cheating, resin cast with video and telephone component, 37 7/8 x 9 1/2 x 3 1/4 inches (96.2 x 24.1 x 8.3 cm), courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures (New York); kamel mennour (Paris/London); König Galerie (Berlin), © ADAGP, Paris 2017.Camille Henrot, Is he cheating, resin cast with video and telephone component, 37 7/8 x 9 1/2 x 3 1/4 inches (96.2 x 24.1 x 8.3 cm), courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures (New York); kamel mennour (Paris/London); König Galerie (Berlin), © ADAGP, Paris 2017.
- Camille Henrot, vue de l’exposition The Pale Fox, Westfälischer Kunstverein, Münster, 2014-2015, Commandée et produite par Chisenhale Gallery en partenariat avec Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhague; Bétonsalon – Centre d’art et de recherche, Paris et Westfälischer Kunstverein, Münster, photo : Thorsten Arendt, courtesy de l’artiste et de kamel mennour (Paris/Londres) ; König Galerie(Berlin) ; Metro Pictures (New York). © ADAGP, Paris 2017