In her work, Camille Henrot has engaged subjects and inspirations as diverse as ethnographic film, the zoetrope (a pre-film animation device from the 19th century that produces the illusion of motion), telephone hotlines, and ikebana (the Japanese art of flower arranging). Born in Paris in 1978, Henrot studied film animation at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs before spending brief periods assisting mixed-media artist Pierre Huyghe, working in advertising, and making music videos. Now based in New York, she produces compelling works in a variety of mediums, including film, sculpture, installation, and painting.
Henrot’s work reflects her interest in philosophy, literature, and anthropology; her creative process often involves exhaustive research. “As an artist, I have the freedom to browse through ideas with the curiosity of the amateur,” she once said. “I’m allowed to have an irrational approach to knowledge, which is a privilege I appreciate a lot. I see the world as a fragmented ensemble and that fragmentation is harrowing. Through the research implied by my projects, I can establish some continuity.”1
Henrot’s interest in the collection and structuring of information and knowledge is most directly explored in her 2013 video Grosse Fatigue, which she created as part of the Smithsonian Artists Research Fellowship Program in Washington, DC. The 13-minute-long video is set on a computer desktop, where countless windows containing images, data, Web pages, and videos continually open, accumulate, and close. This dense visual experience is propelled by a soundtrack of rhythmic beats and a spoken word–style narration of the history of the universe told through a cross-cultural amalgamation of creation myths. Like much of Henrot’s work, Grosse Fatigue layers the historic and the contemporary, drawing on a wealth of sources to create a poetic exploration of information overload in the digital age.
Introduction by Lily Goldberg, Collection Specialist, Department of Painting and Sculpture, 2016