Marguerite Humeau (born 1986, France) lives and works in London. She studied at the Design Academy Eindhoven and at the Royal College of Art, London, where she obtained her MA in Design Interactions in 2011. Her work has been shown in various solo and group exhibitions in galleries and museums including Palais de Tokyo (Paris), Château de Versailles, Haus Konstruktiv (Zürich Art Prize 2017), Tate Britain (London), Nottingham Contemporary, the High Line (New York), Manifesta11 (Zürich), Schinkel Pavillon (Berlin), the Museum of Modern Art (New York), and the Hayward Gallery (Touring Programme). She currently teaches at HEAD – Genève and Open School East (Margate). Marguerite Humeau’s work stages the crossing of great distances in time and space, transitions between animal and mineral, and encounters between personal desires and natural forces. The work explores the possibility of communication between worlds and the means by which knowledge is generated in the absence of evidence or through the impossibility of reaching the object of investigation. Marguerite Humeau weaves factual events into speculative narratives, therefore enabling unknown, invisible, or extinct forms of life to erupt in grandiose splendour. Combining prehistory, occult biology and science fiction in a disconcerting spectacle – the works resuscitate the past, conflate subterranean and subcutaneous, all the while updating the quest genre for the information age.
The complex of works RIDDLES consists in five projects and exhibitions that took place in 2017 on the High Line in New York, at C L E A R I N G New York/Brussels, at the Schinkel Pavillon in Berlin, in the Bosquet de l’Arc de Triomphe in the Château de Versailles gardens and at Haus Konstruktiv in Zürich.
The figure at the center of all RIDDLES exhibitions is that of the sphinx, a human-animal composite being present in all civilisations around the world, the beginnings of which date all the way back to the early history of humanity. In both Egyptian and Greek mythology, a protective function is attributed to the sphinx: the ability to guard humanity against potential enemies. In ancient Greece, it would also decide on life or death according to whether a riddle was answered correctly or incorrectly. Marguerite Humeau bridges the gap between past and present, hypothesizing that today’s surveillance systems, drones for instance, are directly descended from the ancient figure of the sphinx.
While researching the origins of the sphinx, the artist came across the Lion Man, a figurine 35’000 to 41’000 years old, found in 1939 in the cave Hohlenstein-Stadel in the valley Lonetal. This shows that sphinx-like figures were already being made in the Upper Paleolithic Age, a time when humans were exposed to wild animals and had not yet become the dominant species on Earth. Another observation support this theory: vultures and lions, that together compose the figure of the sphinx, and that are often represented in early representations of conflicts, are two of the rare species to be eating human flesh.
This led the artist to assume that early humans invented the figure of the sphinx as a protective deity to guard against enemy attacks. Humeau sees the sphinx as a hybrid of all menacing attackers, which it protects and also threatens.
Artist, researcher — FR/UK