Marguerite Humeau at Clearing (Contemporary Art Daily)

What if non-human beings are not just spectators ‒ witnessing the world’s slow motion destruction? What if they, too, mourn their dead, and weep for the extinction of other species? What if global warming is triggering the birth of spiritual feelings in non-human beings?
Humeau has heard tell of whales beaching themselves, embracing death by suffocation under their own body weight for no one else but themselves. Dolphins, too, committing mass suicide ‒ tired of the sea and life therein. Chimpanzees are piling up rocks ‒ apparently building some kind of temple. Reindeers are self-inducing magicmushrooms, reaching states of ecstatic trance. Elephants wave branches at the waxing moon…
While some of these behaviours seem to be ancient, their number and complexity have increased in recent years. Mass extinction seems to be making animals more conscious of their own mortality; making them hope for some form of existence after death… Clear distinctions between animal and man (indeed, between nature and culture) are blurring. MIST descends:
A cold moon, seen from the below the newly risen sea, casts pale light throughout the space. THE MOONilluminates the exhibition’s uncanny scene, where the earth has partially sunk beneath rising floodwaters.On land the air is thick with an invisible layer of toxic gas. It is here that mutant denizens of MIST live outtheir attenuated, half-conscious days. Reduced to living-death, these creatures are mere lungs, tracheas ‒ respiratory organs ‒ slowly mutating into industrial waste.
A marine mammal is suffocating (THE DEAD), facing the sky. Another one (THE PRAYER) is lifting its bodyup, searching for some form of transcendence, perhaps invoking celestial bodies. A group of half-submergedbeings (THE BREATHERS) look on, performing a breathing sacrament, as if to vouchsafe the former’s passage into another realm through a personal offering to the lunar deity ‒ projecting ocean water and whale mucus,sourced during a research expedition off the west coast of British Columbia. All the while, an invisible entity(THE MYTH TELLER) is heard moving throughout the entrails of the building, narrating the first non-humanmyth of a future deluge. Behind a wall, a large wave seems to have left various disembodied respiratory tracts (WASTE) lying on the shore. In another room, at the back of the gallery, we enter the deep sea. In this oceana shoal of fish (THE DEAD, THE DANCERS, and THE AIR) are performing a non-human dance, to resuscitateone of their dead.
As Joseph Campbell tells it ‒ the recognition of mortality and the requirement to transcend it is the first greatimpulse to the birth of myths and religion. MIST envisions a world in which mass extinction has accelerated to a point of no return; where non-human beings have become spiritual, capable of self-transcendence and mystical experience, because they have no other choice. It is as if promethean punishment (the trauma of reason) were visited on them for humanity’s crimes in the pursuit of planetary mastery.
In keeping with her interdisciplinary approach to world-making, Humeau has developed this new suite ofworks through consultation with numerous specialists ‒ probing the outer reaches of their competence insearch of suggestive material. Drawing upon a range of domains (including behavioral science, anthropology, environmental studies, evolutionary psychology, developmental biology, cognitive science, primatology, ethology, archeology, history, and climate change studies) MIST’s conceptual universe is bricolage of exotic and unlikely facts. The resulting sculptures constitute their synthetic interpretation: They are players in a granddrama; science-fiction in action; actors on a stage; showing (as much as some scientists have begun to tell)that something major is afoot…


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