Marguerite Humeau: Horizons
Import Projects, Berlin, 3 September - 11 October, 2014
In Horizons the artist Marguerite Humeau stages the crossing of great distances in time and space, transitions between animal and mineral, and encounters between personal desires and natural forces. Combining prehistory, occult biology and science fiction in a disconcerting spectacle – the works in this exhibition resuscitate the past, conflate subterranean and subcutaneous, all the while updating the quest genre for the information age.

Entelodont, “Hell Pig”, -25M years ago and Mammoth Imperator, -4,5M years ago (both 2012) are sound producing sculptures comprising resonance cavities, synthetic larynges, vocal cords, windpipes and artificial intelligence systems. Working from fossils of extinct beasts and anatomical data from their descendent species, Humeau collaborated with palaeontologists, zoologists, veterinarians, engineers, surgeons, ear and throat specialists, and radiologists to model hybrid sound producing anatomies. The resulting works are visually compelling three-dimensional forms that give voice to oddly frankenstinian sonic agents – calling to us from the ancient past as well as the present. The works for the first part of a design trilogy entitled The Opera of Prehistoric Creatures.

The Things? is the second chapter in a design trilogy exploring the possibility of communication between worlds and the means by which knowledge is generated through the impossibility of reaching the object of investigation – it being extinct, unknown or physically inaccessible. The project is a fictional trip to Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, performed as a real expedition to Antarctica. The black smokers – underwater volcanoes which give off a thick black smoke – of Antarctica are thought to be the closest equivalent on Earth to Europa’s mysterious depths. The East Scotia Ridge, located near the Antarctic ice cap in the South Atlantic Ocean, is to be used as a test bed for the exploration of Europa and as the location for the project.

Around two years ago, against all expectations, unidentified species were found living in these black smokers, surviving without any oxygen or sunlight. The dream of encountering extraterrestrial life and communicating with these otherworldly beings became Humeau’s ambition. The creatures at the East Scotia Ridge supposedly communicate by light, black powder and sound. Prop 1 (2014) is a vibrating, inflatable full size model of a fighter jet made out of black PVC. Humeau commissioned this object from a company specializing in the manufacture of military decoys – whose function is to fool satellite/remote surveillance programs into identifying them as real weapons. Prop 1 is a functional simulation that will eventually be ‘crashed’ into the waters surrounding Antarctica in an attempt to communicate with the aforementioned extremophiles. These entties have been posited as the kind of life that may exist on the icy moon of Europa. Prop 1 represents one element of a ‘spectacle’ or ‘design blockbuster’ devised by the artist as an experiment modeling communication strategies with aliens.

Prop 2 (2014) is an air cannon that emits a cloud of black powder – another ‘design blockbuster’ tool for the future trip to Antarctica/Europa.

“Low and powerful vibrations can be felt. The inflatable plane is dropped in the water. It crashes: a loud noise is emitted, the gallery walls give a sudden tremble, the sound is louder and louder. The stromboscopic device emits flashes of light, the air gun is triggered, black powder comes out and forms a cloud of glittered black smoke similar to the chemical powder that these creatures supposedly emit, simulating the explosion.”

Angelic Organ (2014). In 1848, the Fox Sisters used "rappings" to convince their much older sister and others that they were communicating with spirits. In 2014 Humeau has recreated a musical instrument from the 18th century that was forbidden at the time as it supposedly causing both musicians and their listeners to go mad. Humeau’s Angelic Organ, which replicates the frequencies that the creatures supposedly emit to communicate with each other, will be played aboard the expedition boat with the aim to enter in a dialogue with the aliens of Antarctica.