Marguerite Humeau: ‘I’m interested in the evolution of love’


Left: “Wadjet (King Cobra)”, 2015 Polystyrene, white paint, artificial human saliva, 1g King Cobra venom sourced in Florida. Right: “Tawaret”, 2015, polystyrene, white paint, artificial prosthetics, plastic container, water, pumps, rapamycin, rasvetarol. Copyright Marguerite Humeau and DUVE Berlin


Marguerite Humeau’s work investigates the foundations of history, anthropology and science. In her 2012 installation, “Cleopatra ‘That Goddess’”, the Egyptian queen is revived as a synthetic voice singing love songs in extinct languages. And in “Echoes” (2015) features white sculptures of snakes in a space supposedly covered in black mamba venom. Beguiling and startling, the 29-year-old French artist reminds us of the dark corners of human knowledge. Prior to her forthcoming collaborative show at the Manifesta Biennale 11 in Zurich, as well as her solo exhibition at Palais de Tokyo, Paris, Humeau caught up with SLEEK to talk about her new projects. The artist has also been announced as one of the most influentials French people in the world by Vanity Fair.


SLEEK: What are you doing for Manifesta?
Marguerite Humeau: Well, participants have been paired with “host professionals”, in my case, a designer called Matthias Bürki from Autonomous Systems Lab in Zurich. He creates the decision processes for self-driving cars, and has been helping me “teach” two mechanical creatures I’ve designed how to communicate via Wi-fi.

Maybe they need Facebook. What’s your exhibition at Palais de Tokyo about?
Sentience. I’ve been researching the origin of language, and have created a celestial chorus using synthetic approximations of the voices of every human that has existed on earth, in every single language that’s ever existed. That’s 108 billion Homo Sapiens voices, divided into 24 different choruses according to their gender and age of death.

And what about the other works?
There’s a fresco about the primordial soup featuring a group of 10 sculptures mimicking an elephant death ritual. It’s based on this story I read of a female elephant that died in the jungle.

What was your inspiration?
I asked a zoologist which species would have become sentient had humanity not evolved, and he suggested elephants because of these rituals. I’m interested in the evolution of love, and want to explore whether or not these emotions are the result of hormones or other phenomena. The same thing goes for the Manifesta show and the choir of homo sapiens. It’s like we’re reverse engineering the history of mankind.



Marguerite Humeau. Portrait by Francesca Allen
Marguerite Humeau. Portrait by Francesca Allen


Taken from SLEEK 50

Marguerite Humeau’s solo show is at Palais de Tokyo, Paris, until 9 November 2016

Jeni Fulton

Jeni Fulton

– Dr. des. Jeni Fulton is Sleek’s Editor in Chief. She holds a degree in Philosophy from the University of Cambridge, and a PhD on the subject of Value and Evaluation in Contemporary Art from the Humboldt University, Berlin. Her PhD examines how economic assessments of value interact with sociological and critical assessment in the field of contemporary art. She has contributed to Frieze, Spike and Apollo among many publications, and regularly lectures on art economics, art criticism and the contemporary art sphere.

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