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Arts & Entertainment

'Pierre Huyghe': A living, breathing museum exhibition




Pierre Huyghe's exhibition at LACMA includes this sculpture whose head is covered by a bee hive.
Pierre Huyghe's exhibition at LACMA includes this sculpture whose head is covered by a bee hive.
Stefanie Keenan
Pierre Huyghe's exhibition at LACMA includes this sculpture whose head is covered by a bee hive.
Installation view of Pierre Huyghe's exhibition at the Centre Georges Pompidou, currently at the L.A. County Museum of Art.
Pierre Huyghe
Pierre Huyghe's exhibition at LACMA includes this sculpture whose head is covered by a bee hive.
Exhibition view of Pierre Huyghe's exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Leonor Rey


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A man in a tuxedo stands at the entrance to the Pierre Huyghe exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He asks for your name, and once you tell him, he shouts it into the gallery space, seemingly to everybody ... or nobody.

Inside the gallery, things only get stranger. The dimly lit space plays host to a Kafka-esque video of tribunal members whose faces are obscured by lighted binders, another video of a monkey moving around an Asian restaurant while wearing a little girl's mask, and ants coming out of a wall into their own habitat. And there's much more ...

Huyghe calls the gallery space a "non-knowledge zone," the walls of which reach up to the ceiling and jut out at odd angles. Even the more off-putting aspects of the show, like a video of maggots shots close-up, prove weirdly engrossing. Which is kind of the point.

"Part of what the exhibition deals with is the format of the exhibition itself," explains Jarrett Gregory, the show's curator. "Pierre has taken the last 25 years of his work and installed it as one immersive environment. His approach to his work is very non-precious."

The piles of fur coats on the ground aren't just decor — they're used as bedding by a dog. The dog's name is "Human," one of her legs is painted neon pink, and she roams the gallery with her handler. The handler doesn't speak, but sometimes he does wear an LED mask.

Another source of light in the mostly dark gallery comes from a few glass doors, which lead to an outdoor patio where an ice machine drops shavings into a nice pyramid, a fog machine adds atmospherics, and a beehive has taken residence on the head of a reclining sculpture.

As a member of the relational aesthetics movement, Huyghe constructs time-based situations in which live events unfold according to a program or score. So this isn't an exhibit where a museum can just hang some pictures on a wall. A permit had to be secured for "Human," and the insects can be a little finicky, too.

Gregory says various issues have popped up during the show, such as figuring out "when a bee will build a hive, or how much time ants need to acclimate and come out of the wall. The ants won't come out if the [air conditioning] is on too high — little things like that."

But when asked if there have been any issues with the bees now living at LACMA, Gregory says with a laugh, "We haven't had any yet, so we're optimistic."

"Pierre Huyghe" runs until February 22 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.



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