Ones to Watch 2017: artist Marguerite Humeau
It’s Nice That’s Ones to Watch is our chance to showcase 12 creatives who we think will be making an impact in 2017. The people featured have been whittled down from a global pool of creative talent and have been chosen for their ability to consistently produce inspiring and engaging work. Each one practices across a diverse range of disciplines and continually pushes the boundaries of their creative output. Ones to Watch 2017 is supported by Uniqlo.
We caught up with each of our Ones to Watch, to talk about their work so far and their hopes for the year to come.
London-based artist Marguerite Humeau describes the beginning of a project as an “investigation into places or beings that are hidden or invisible”. Marguerite’s personal “quest” as an artist is to reactivate or reimagine the mysteries she discovers and to solve the narrative she creates. The outcomes usually take the form of large-scale installations involving sound, sculpture and light, all laced with exotic and unimaginable materials.
Marguerite first garnered attention with her RCA graduate project back in 2012, which saw her reconstruct the vocal tracts of prehistoric creatures to capture the grunts and shrieks they may have made. This project, and her subsequent works, follow the same research-led process, which sees the artist muse, explore and dissect the ideas she comes across. “I read books and articles, go to conferences, I travel to museums around the world. It’s a very broad approach but I try to be as open as I can so I can absorb everything.”
Some of her earlier works now reside in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Lafayette Corporate Foundation in Paris. Yet it wasn’t until last year that saw Marguerite land her first major solo show at Palais de Tokyo in June, which she later re-configured for Nottingham Contemporary in October.
“FOXP2 was my first solo show in a museum, so it was a really important moment for me as a young artist. Palais de Tokyo is an incredible institution so I was really honoured to have my first solo show there,” says Marguerite.
In the show, Marguerite creates a highly-stylised “biological showroom” where she artificially reenacts the origin of conscious life by exploring the 2% difference between humans and chimpanzees, and proposes the notion that elephants could have been the dominant species on Earth. The scale of the project was huge, not just conceptually but physically, as Marguerite designed the show to fill 600 square metres of exhibition space.
“What I realised from the show is that I really enjoy working on one, large-scale project. Maybe I work in a similar way to a filmmaker in the sense that for FOXP2, it was like a feature film and the whole process involved lots of research, work and people,” explains Marguerite.
Creating hyperreal sculptures and environments is a style Marguerite is becoming known for, where everything seems so pristine it almost doesn’t exist. Collaboration is a key element in her practice and it’s something Marguerite wants to continue in 2017. The artist also wants to keep challenging herself as she did in 2016, by playing with the technical possibilities of the work she creates. As a result, for the next couple of years Marguerite aims to hone in on these mammoth, high-definition projects, as opposed to working on smaller, less-intensive shows.
Already, Marguerite has three major exhibitions in the pipeline for 2017. The first is a project for New York’s High Line, the 1.45-mile-long park built on a disused freight rail line, which will launch in April. It coincides with a gallery show at Clearing in New York around the same time in May. Marguerite is also working on a show at the Schinkel Pavilion in Berlin that will open in June.
“All of these projects are in the early stages of research, but there’s sort of two ideas going on at the same time although they are linked,” Marguerite explains. “For the Schinkel Pavilion, the idea is to re-enact the first human war that ever happened, so I’m doing research on an area called Cemetery 117 in the Sahara Desert where there have been human skeletons found that look to have died from battle wounds.” Marguerite hopes to explore the technology and culture of war in ancient civilisations.
Marguerite Humeau: FOXP2
Marguerite Humeau: FOXP2
For the New York-based shows, it’s slightly more conceptual. “I’m trying to design seven things that could be placed on earth to repel evil and invisible spirits. One of them will be on the High Line and the others will be models in the gallery. It’s all still quite vague but I’m still working on my research and hope to launch production early January.”
As well as these shows, Marguerite is excited about the year ahead: “I’m looking forward to giving talks later in the year and I also teach at the Geneva School of Art and Design and this year I’m mentoring three graduates doing their masters diploma,” she says. “Other than that I’m not sure what I’ll be doing. The shows are always planned so far ahead so I like to keep the rest of my time fairly open, so I’m excited about what might happen!”
About the Author
Rebecca Fulleylove is a freelance writer and editor specialising in art, design and culture. She is also senior writer at Creative Review, having previously worked at Elephant, Google Arts & Culture, and It’s Nice That.