Venice Biennale Revisited – Camille Henrot

The Venice Biennale provides an amazing art overload for the visitor and so I thought it would be nice to take the time to revisit the 2013 version. Which works left a lasting impression? Which artists were googled after coming home?

Camille Henrot

Camille Henrot  

Still from video 'Grosse Fatigue' by Camille Henrot 2013.

Still from video ‘Grosse Fatigue’ by Camille Henrot 2013.


I clearly remember watching the video ‘Grosse Fatigue’ by Camille Henrot (born in 1975, Paris) at the 55th Venice Biennale. The exciting soundscape, the crazy uptempo editing of the images but most of all her dazzling attempt to capture the story of the creation of the universe in 13 minutes while infusing both the spiritual and secular means we use to create this knowledge.
‘Grosse Fatigue’ was awarded the prestigious Silver Lion award for the most promising young newcomer at the 55th Biennale.


Installation view of ‘Cities of Ys’ by Camille Henrot in NOMA, 2013.

Meanwhile she had her first solo exhibition in the UK and the first comprehensive exhibition of her work in the US (‘The Restless Earth’, NY) and last year she showed ‘Cities of Ys’ in the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA).


Installation view of ‘Cities of Ys’ by Camille Henrot in NOMA, 2013.

For ‘Cities of Ys‘ Camille Henrot created a combination of video and sculptural works that explore the fluidity of legends and cultures. Henrot was attracted to the Houma Indians in Louisiana both for their connection to her native language and for the tribe’s resistance to the homogenization and institutionalization of their culture. Today, the Houma tribe is seeking to become a federally recognized tribe by the United States government.


Installation view of ‘Cities of Ys’ by Camille Henrot in NOMA, 2013.

Seeking to tie together two cultures, the Houma, and her own, Henrot recalls a legend told by her grandmother from Brittany, France. According to this legend, titled “City of Ys,” Ys was a luxurious coastal city protected by a seawall. Princess Dahut of Ys, convinced by a foreign knight, stole the key to the floodgate from her father, King Gradlon. As a result of her transgression, the floodwalls collapsed and Ys was submerged underwater. However, the legend adds that the city continues to exist under the waves.

Through ‘Cities of Ys’, Henrot critically examines how our digital and globalized era challenges traditional notions of identity. It is her hope that by approaching cultures through their partial connections rather than their differences, we may increase our sense of global empathy.


Installation view of ‘Cities of Ys’ by Camille Henrot in NOMA, 2013.

The way she mixes scientific knowledge from anthropology and biology, myths, story telling, music, artefacts, sculpture and digital media in one captivating mix of links and insights is dazzling.

Camille Henrot is nominated for the Hugo Boss Prize 2014 which comes with $100,000 and a solo show at the Guggenheim in New York, to be announced later this month. Thumbs up!

Photographs of ‘Cities of Ys’ installation copyright Rachel Heidenry.