Untitled (Human Mask)

Pierre Huyghe French

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 914

This film was inspired by a real situation. It opens with a pan of a deserted streetscape near Fukushima, Japan, which was devastated by natural and man-made disasters in 2011. Amid the ruin, the camera enters an abandoned restaurant and finds what appears to be the only survivor: a monkey adorned with a mask and costume of a young girl. This attire is similar to that in which her owners dress her to work in their sake house. Automaton-like and alone in this dystopian setting, she continues to carry out her duties—tasks she learned by watching and mimicking the restaurant’s staff. Seemingly trapped in her repetitive role, she now works for herself alone.

Over the course of his career and across many diverse media, Huyghe has developed an artistic practice that examines the complex and often contradictory ways in which humans relate to the natural world and to its intelligent and often inscrutable systems. Huyghe has incorporated living animals, plants, and insects as components in many of his visionary projects. Throughout his various networks of objects and ideas, Huyghe explores the paradoxical rift between what we think we know about the world and what it can and cannot, in turn, tell us. Untitled (Human Mask) evokes many such themes: the monotony of work and the repetition of ritualistic behaviors, the possibility of a catastrophic future, and the power that living creatures hold over us as ciphers of ourselves.

Untitled (Human Mask), Pierre Huyghe (French, born Paris, 1962), Single-channel video, color, sound, 19 min.

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Still from ‘Untitled (Human Mask)’ (2014) © Pierre Huyghe. Courtesy the artist, Hauser & Wirth and Anna Lena Films, Paris