Camille Henrot: is there such a thing as a pale fox?

Like many, I became acquainted with Camille Henrot (born in 1978) at the Venice Biennale, where she won the Silver Lion for most promising young artist for her film Grosse Fatigue – which I would translate from French as “exhaustion”.

Grosse Fatigue was a creation borne out of Camille Henrot’s residency at the Smithsonian museum in Washington DC in early 2013. Our guide in Venice left us to watch Grosse Fatigue for a few minutes but urged us to return to linger on our own. We were captivated by the sequence of accumulated images set to powerful rap music.

Camille Henrot was working on another project at the same time as Grosse Fatigue, The Pale Fox, which is shown at Chisenhale Gallery until April 13. It is easy to see why The Pale Fox is an installed version of Grosse Fatigue, if not more difficult to grasp an understanding of.

20140423-222904.jpg Camille Henrot
The Pale Fox, 2014
Installation views, Chisenhale Gallery, London, 2014
Commissioned and produced by Chisenhale Gallery in partnership with Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen; Bétonsalon – Centre for art and research, Paris and Westfälischer Kunstverein, Münster
© ADAGP Camille Henrot
Photo. Andy Keate
Courtesy kamel mennour, Paris and Johann König, Berlin.

I entered a single blue room, uncertain where to go. My confusion was accentuated by the fact that the walls and floor were in Yves Klein’s blue (International Klein Blue). A stack of images immediately reminded me of the storage vaults of images in Grosse Fatigue, except here they are on shelves and not stored on a desktop. Paper clips also reminded me of the office atmosphere.

The key difference is perhaps the contemplative mood of The Pale Fox, induced by meditative electronic-like music. The music is initially in the background but seemed to become more powerful the longer I listened. It is interrupted by coughing and sneezing and a remote-controlled snake on the floor! I thought music was a key part of Grosse Fatigue and was surprised that The Pale Fox had a lesser leaning towards music than its filmed counterpart.

Bronze sculptures are Camille Henrot’s signature work, including her characteristic ‘Overlapping figures’, which have what I would describe as a distinctive elephant trunk-like shape. I was fond of her interpretation of Rodin’s ‘The Thinker’ (Le Penseur de Rodin ‘Desktop’ Series). Some of the other sculptures reminded me of Barbara Hepworth.

20140423-222804.jpg Camille Henrot
The Pale Fox, 2014
Installation views, Chisenhale Gallery, London, 2014
Commissioned and produced by Chisenhale Gallery in partnership with Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen; Bétonsalon – Centre for art and research, Paris and Westfälischer Kunstverein, Münster
© ADAGP Camille Henrot
Photo. Andy Keate
Courtesy kamel mennour, Paris and Johann König, Berlin.

The title of the exhibition originates from an anthropological study of the West African Dogon people and “articulates our desire to make sense of the world through the objects that surround us”, according to the Chisenhale Gallery. The show was difficult to comprehend and so less enjoyable than Grosse Fatigue. I left with lingering questions such as why was there a bigger stack of objects in the ‘How things unfold’ section’?

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2 responses to “Camille Henrot: is there such a thing as a pale fox?

  1. Sounds like something I would enjoy – can see the Hepworth connection! Those immersive installations are fun, especially when they can be bothered to use sound to complete the experience (something that is sorely missing from Phyllida Barlow’s Dock at the Tate Britain).

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