Tuesday, October 20, 2015
PIERRE HUYGHE ' The Human Mask"
What remains with me as I consider Pierre Huyghe’s 19 minute film ‘The Human Mask’ screened last night at ACMI in association with TarraWarra Museum of Art and the Melbourne Festival?
The slow, repetitive dripping of a tap, a monkey wearing a human mask and playing intermittently with strands of the long, black wig & the hem of the dress she is wearing - her reflection in the mirror. Tapping its foot and then removing something from the fridge in one part of the house and, then returning to another room. The darkness of the interiors, the utter devastation outside of a city destroyed, no humans in sight save for this disturbing representation of this animal dressed as a Japanese school girl. Picking at its fingernails it turns its head slightly to the side as it listens to the sounds of wind and rain, the cat that watches the primate’s monotonous actions is mirrored in the continuous up and down paw gesture of the maneki-neko (Japanese: 招き猫, literally "beckoning cat") a common Japanese figurine believed to bring good luck. On this occasion the maneki-neko relates to the non-nonsensical, unfathomable & mechanical forces of nature. The 'girl' is in fact a macaque monkey who once worked as a waitress in a Toykyo restaurant, which explains why this primate can stand upright and does not exhibit the usual stooping movement we associate with their gait.
It is through images of repetition that Pierre Huyghe addresses and reinforces duration – the passage of time metered out not by historical human events, but in the way that non human things make their presence known in this lonely and deserted arena. The temporal nature of being is also represented by the image of a cockroach scurrying across the floor, hasn’t it been said that insects will inherit the world if it is ultimately destroyed? And the maggots, strange clones of one another writhe in concert with potential, transformative life amidst food and other objects that lay where they had been dumped by gushing water. Both the cockroach and the maggots embody destruction of infrastructure and decay of organic matter after the Japanese tsunami in 2011.
I appreciated this film for all gestures made by the monkey who wears a human mask, mirror possible mundane actions that we ourselves may become engaged in if we were left alone with very little to do. We are after all humanimals and are subject to the same boredom.
Pierre Huyghe’s film follows a number of artists who have dealt with evolution of the human species and the transhuman, such as Lisa Roet, Stelarc and Patricia Piccinini, to name a few.