Pierre Huyghe

Pierre Huyghe conceived his exhibition “Interludes” as being similar to a shopping mall: a “scripted space” luring the consumer from one attraction to the next. But Huyghe sought to foster an inquisitive analytical attitude in the viewer, not consumerist behavior. To this end, the various links between his works were emphasized by their installation. The videos Blanche-Neige, Lucie (Snow White, Lucie), 1997, and Two Minutes Out of Time, 2000, for instance, were both projected alternately at two different places in the show. They were always both on; when the video portrait of the woman who is the voice of Disney’s Snow White in French was being shown in one room, the other hosted a computer animation of the manga character Ann Lee. Lucie Dolène tells how she regained the rights over her vocalization of Snow White; Huyghe and fellow artist Philippe Parreno have bought the character Ann Lee’s copyright from the company that designed her. They have rescued her from a short life as a minor manga character and given her a new look and a voice: Thus they have created “a deviant sign.”

In Two Minutes Out of Time, Ann Lee is seen en face as she talks to the viewer; Lucie Dolène, while singing “Some Day My Prince Will Come” in French addresses us in the subtitles. In the two-channel video projection The Third Memory, 2000, it is bank robber John Wojtowicz who is given a voice. Wojtowicz was famously played by Al Pacino in Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon, based on Wojtowicz’s 1972 bank heist. Most of the The Third Memory shows the old bank robber in an abstracted, simplified version of the bank—or of the set in Lumet’s film. This is complemented by footage from Dog Day Afternoon. Wojtowicz mentions that he and his accomplices had gone to see The Godfather—which also stars Pacino—to boost their morale on the day before the bungled robbery. Rather than attempting to reconstruct the historical truth behind Hollywood’s fables, Huyghe investigates how fiction is always inherent in and prior to historical facts. The abstracted set gives the whole exercise a somewhat unreal, even uncanny character. When Woitowicz tells an actor who plays a policeman what to say, one has the feeling that he is directing one of his own dreams—or nightmares.

At the end of The Third Memory, the lights above the set go up and then go out. Lighting played a prominent part in this show. which was one of two last exhibitions at the temporary location of the Van Abbemuseum, a building formerly used by Philips, the lightbulb manufacturer turned electronics company. The center point of the show was Atari Light (Pong), 1999, a version of the old video game Pong in the guise of a ceiling made of tiles that can be illuminated from behind; the moving illuminated squares are the “figures” of the play. Every thirty minutes Pong and all the video works were interrupted by a “break” during which a large lightbulb lit up and seemed to talk in a female voice—about being a ghost or a daydream, and about man’s futile attempt to turn the night into a semblance of the day, to defeat darkness. It was these breaks that marked the switching of Blanche-Neige, Lucie and Two Minutes Out of Time. The lightbulb’s voice made for a funny and strangely moving moment in a show that was didactic in the best sense of the word—aimed at increasing one’s insight not through blunt statements, but through subtle and cunning ploys.

Sven Lütticken