Cover image of the review
Camille Henrot, *The Pale Fox*, 2014, installation view, Chisenhale Gallery, London, 2014. Courtesy kamel mennour, Paris and Johann König, Berlin. Photo: Andy Keate.

Camille Henrot: Is Today Tomorrow

18 Sep 2021
25 Jun - 30 Jan 2022

The fifth novel of controversial French author Michel Houellebecq, The Map and the Territory, follows the life and artistic career of fictional artist Jed Martin. After early experiments documenting machinery and Michelin maps, Martin’s artistic impulse turns to capturing social types: artists, businessmen, entrepreneurs and sex workers, among others. He muses:

I have the impression that people resemble one another more than is normally said … I know very well that human beings are the subject of the novel … and one of the great subjects of painting as well, but I can’t help thinking that people are much less different than they generally think.

Obviously, Martin’s musings are a vehicle for Houellebecq’s well-documented opinion that the intense focus on, and belief in, the individual is a stain on contemporary society. For Houellebecq, and for Martin, a person’s character is determined by their class, sex, geographic location, genetics and the products they consume. Nothing deeper. It’s a bleak, but essential breakdown of the dubious faith in autonomy and self-realisation that pervades much contemporary art and culture. The work of fellow French creative Camille Henrot launches a similar investigation, but inverts Houellebecq’s project. Rather than showing the individual as a product of these conditions, her artwork confronts the viewer with a startling collation of objects, images and artifacts—the disorder of contemporary life. It’s not simply a critique of the “too muchness” of the world, but a reflection of the underacknowledged connections and overlaps between ways of thinking and being, between subcultures and religious ideologies, between art, education and advertising, between self-care and advertising, between advertising and systems of control and surveillance.

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