Fear, loathing, danger and play at LACMA? The Pierre Huyghe exhibit


Experience. Mystery, Danger, Avatars. Connection. Pong. Ghost in the machine.

These disparate items come together in the retrospective exhibit of Pierre Huyghe’s work at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. There isn’t a title for the show, nor are there labels on any of  the works. When you arrive at the entrance, a man in a tuxedo announces your name as if you were arriving to a ball. After I walked through, I thought I should have given him a different name. Next time.

The ambiance was one of a dark gray, mysterious, Scooby Doo-like, should-have-been fog laden space. One of the first things you see is a terrarium/fish tank filled with very murky water. After a couple minutes a light goes on and you can see inside the tank to this almost underground forest filled with different fish. Then the lights go out and it’s gone. In the same room, among plants sprouting from the concrete, there is an immense light installation hanging from the ceiling. The guard asked if we wanted to play ping pong. SURE! Using two Atari-like game controller paddles, my friend and I played pong using the ceiling light panels as our game monitor.

I don’t want to give too much away, as the experience itself was art. While sitting watching a video, a very thin, cute dog, with a pink painted leg walked through the gallery. Then, someone wearing a light-brite type mask walked through the room. It was very Dada, very Surreal, very Performative. In a museum! The music in the background was Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights. Very apropos.

While there, it looked like a group of officials from Animal Control came through. My first thought was, ok sure, they are checking up on the live animals. My second thought, or question was, oh, maybe  they are part of the performance? So why the animals? There was so much controversy over Banksy’s Elephant in the Room exhibit last year, there is sure to be talk over an emaciated looking painted dog at LACMA.

Elements of danger and fear were two common themes. There was a live bee hive just outside the exhibition space. On the door was a note stating “enter at your own risk.” I went out for a minute and felt that was enough. When I tried to come back in, the door only opened one way, so the guard had to let me in. Was this part of the exhibit?

The exhibition is one of connection, unpredictability, mystery, danger, fear and play. The experience left me wanting more, asking questions and realizing I missed a lot, or maybe not. Maybe that was it.

The retrospective also left me thinking about what it means to be an artist in today’s society.

I will definitely be back, if anything, just to give a different name at the entrance. I wonder if it will change my experience.

~Kristine Schomaker

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