Pierre Huyghe: After UUmwelt

La Grande Halle
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Mental images can flow from one mind to another, outside the field of appearance, like a synthetic telepathic conversation. They can also be externalized from the minds of the subjects and manifest physically. It would then be possible to witness the creation of a collective imagination, as in a neural ritual. Mind's Eyes are mental images extracted from UUmwelt, artefacts of the field of the imaginary, precipitated occupying space. They are in an ambiguous continuity between visual human imagination, artificial intelligence, data and matter.

Pierre Huyghe

Pierre Huyghe’s practice is concerned with symbiotic realities and general ecology at the intersection of possible worlds. His work manifests itself in inventing conditions for diverse entities to coexist, without hierarchical distinction and without defining a specific outcome. Through interspecies cooperation, new forms are generated outside of the artist’s control and develop independently. 

After UUmwelt is a new commission created for La Grande Halle, a former SNCF production space, now part of LUMA Arles. Pierre Huyghe has transformed the site into a situation where human and artificial imaginations are exposed to biological and technological organisms, viral cells and forms, which actively produce an otherworldly sentient environment, populated by processes and mutations.

According to the artist, UUmwelt is a “co-production of imaginations between human and artificial intelligence”. Presented on LED screen are mental images produced by using a brain-computer interface, which captured a subject’s brain activity as he imagined elements he was prompted to think of, such as biological entities, prehistoric tools, machines, code, and artworks among other. The mental images have been reconstructed under laboratory conditions by a deep neural network, using processes of continuous optimization, learning, and recognition. The process of UUmwelt started in 2018.

In After UUmwelt, new images are being constantly generated. These images incorporate their specific surroundings ("Umwelt" in german) into their inception. Facial recognition of visitors and external factors, such as atmospheric or biological actions by ants, bees, and bacteria, contribute to modifying their appearance in real time.

A cancer cell incubator (Cancer Variator, 2016)containing in vitro HeLa cells, functions as a clock for After UUmwelt. As the rhythm of the cells’ division varies, it triggers a process of new images appearing on the screens.

Alongside these are Mind’s Eyes (2020). They are mental images captured and extracted from the subject’s mind that manifest physically as artefacts of imagination. They are tangible deep image reconstructions, aggregates of synthetic and biological matter and microorganisms. For the duration of the exhibition, they will modify, decay, and transform together with their environment.

Multidimensionality of forms, fluctuating environments, variability in species coexistence, and indeterminacy are essential notions in experiencing the sentient nature of the work, which opens the way for an artistic practice as being/place, freed from prediction.

After UUmwelt is Huyghe’s first large-scale commission in France following his retrospective at the Centre Pompidou in 2013. It is a new iteration of UUmwelt, which was presented at the Serpentine Galleries in London (2 October 2018 – 10 February 2019).

With the support of Christian Dior Parfums.

Pierre Huyghe

Pierre Huyghe (b. in 1962, Paris) lives and works in New York. His work is internationally known and presented in various venues around the world. Huyghe has received a number of awards, including the Nasher Sculpture Prize (2017); Kurt Schwitters Prize (2015); Roswitha Haftmann Award (2013), the Smithsonian Museum’s Contemporary Artist Award (2010), the Hugo Boss Prize, Guggenheim Museum (2002), the Special Award from the Jury of the Venice Biennale (2001), and a DAAD in Berlin (1999-2000). Most recently, he was appointed Artistic Director of the Okayama Art Summit 2019.

Recent exhibitions include UUmwelt, Serpentine Gallery, London (2018); The Roof Garden, Metropolitan Museum, New York (2015). In 2012 -2014, a major retrospective of Huyghe’s work travelled from the Centre Pompidou (Paris) to the Ludwig Museum (Germany) and to Los Angeles County Museum of Art (USA). His work has also been featured in group exhibitions including After ALife Ahead, Skulptur Projekte Münster, Germany (2017); Tino Sehgal at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2016), Saltwater: A Theory of Thought Forms at the 14th Istanbul Biennial (2015), dOCUMENTA(13) in Kassel (2012).


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