Pierre Huyghe: The Roof Garden Commission for The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Pierre Huyghe, The Roof Garden Commission, The Metropolitan Museum of Art image ©MAIERMOUL
Pierre Huyghe, The Roof Garden Commission, The Metropolitan Museum of Art image ©MAIERMOUL

Pierre Huyghe has spent the past twenty-five years experimenting across media to create ritualistic, engaging encounters with art.

His practice extends beyond the use of traditional art forms like drawing and film to materials uncommon in a fine-arts context, including living animals, plants, and other natural elements. At the Met, his project explores the transformation of cultural and biological systems through a dynamic gathering of components derived from the Museum’s collection, architecture, and surroundings.

– The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Roof Garden Commission

Pierre Huyghe, The Roof Garden Commission, The Metropolitan Museum of Art image ©MAIERMOUL
Pierre Huyghe, The Roof Garden Commission, The Metropolitan Museum of Art image ©MAIERMOUL

The work is not “displayed” under a narrative—that’s a system I avoid.
I’m interested in a state of emergence, of non-directed attention.

I have often described the art object as a hysterical thing—an object that needs the gaze of a viewer in order to live. It needs to be addressed, but its construction is then limited. I’m trying to be indifferent to the human presence near the work, to avoid infantilizing people with categorization or some kind of exhibition program. Instead, I’m trying to break that down, because the object of the exhibition itself is the object I’m interested in. The medium between an art object and a subject—a viewer—is a dynamic process, and I’m trying to maintain that as much as I can.

– Pierre Huyghe, interview Art in America

Pierre Huyghe, The Roof Garden Commission, The Metropolitan Museum of Art image ©MAIERMOUL
Pierre Huyghe, The Roof Garden Commission, The Metropolitan Museum of Art image ©MAIERMOUL

Every project with Pierre is a network of scientists, forensic anthropologists, entomologists, production designers, plumbers, aquarium manufacturers. It’s a vast crew that works to put things together in stages,” said associate curator Ian Alteveer.
– Why He Chose to Dig Up the Met’s Roof Garden, New York Observer

Even describing his work can often be an exercise in frustration, bringing to mind the poet John Ashbery’s observation about Roussel, an important influence on Mr. Huyghe: that trying to summarize Roussel’s “mad wealth of particulars” was like trying to “summarize the Manhattan phone book.”

Conceptual Anarchy: Pierre Huyghe’s Unpredictable Retrospective, The New York Times

The format of exhibition is something to work on: it’s a form in itself. Usually an artist thinks of an exhibition as an end point, a resolution of something. He’s working in his studio, and there’s a process, and at the end of this process, he’s showing his work in what we call an exhibition. I’m not interested in that. I’m interested that the exhibition is not the end of the process but a starting point to go somewhere else. In a certain way, that’s what this is all about.

I’m very interested in how things circulate in a certain way—how stories circulate.

My work since The Association Of Freed Time in 1994 has always been about this time-based protocol. It has always been about the exhibition itself, the exhibition being a starting point.

– Pierre Huyghe, interview PBS Art21

Pierre Huyghe, The Roof Garden Commission, The Metropolitan Museum of Art image ©MAIERMOUL
Pierre Huyghe, The Roof Garden Commission, The Metropolitan Museum of Art image ©MAIERMOUL

A temporal and spatial instability characterizes the works themselves, which can exist simultaneously as artworks, events, and exhibitions. The encounters that occur in Pierre Huyghe are not choreographed but unplanned; in what he refers to as “autogenerative systems,” the artist constructs a set of conditions and allows events to unfold following their own course.

Seeking what the artist has termed a “non-knowledge zone,” Huyghe approaches an existing system—such as an institution, a situation, or an area of knowledge—and creates a speculative proposition, a “what could be.” Influences and role-playing become the materials with which he works. Taking the exhibition and its accompanying rituals as both an object in itself and a living entity, he explores the possibilities of this dynamic experience and the mise-en-scène of its boundaries.
– LACMA, Pierre Huyghe November 23, 2014 – February 22, 2015

Pierre Huyghe, The Roof Garden Commission, The Metropolitan Museum of Art image ©MAIERMOUL
Pierre Huyghe, The Roof Garden Commission, The Metropolitan Museum of Art image ©MAIERMOUL