The intelligence of Pierre Huyghe illuminates his work. His role is always graceful: he sets up situations and lets them be. But the results stay with you and are always vivid. For example in Untilled (2012) a greyhound with a pink painted leg trotted past a reclining statue of a woman with a live beehive for a head.
Here the work is contained by the gallery. but the questions pertain to the world outside. A number of people were asked to imagine various subjects and the images that were triggered in their brains has been relayed to us via large LED screens.But these flickering images are shown to us in the process of formation and they change so fast that we barely have time to register momentary thoughts about what we might be looking at. Furthermore we are told that the changing conditions of heat and light, even our presence as visitors in the gallery affect what we are looking at.
The title UUMwelt can be translated as a ‘self world’. These transitory images that set the limits of our consciousness are framed by a self contained insect universe. The role of the flies, of which there are many, is central. Unlike Damian Hirst who included a fly zapping machine in one of his vitrines so that their execution became a spectacle, here we are reassured that ‘their health and happiness are taken seriously’. I am glad to report that these bluebottles all seem healthy and vigorous. They feed and procreate around us in a continuing cycle of death and regeneration.
The images on the screens glow. Seen as abstract configurations of shapes and colours, they are both beautiful and disturbing. We are looking at how brains work with all their hesitations and their frailties. They speak to use directly, in a way which we have never seen before, about the complex state of being alive. But the process and its visualisation remains mysterious – which is a good part of the reason why it works as art.
Pierre Huyghe ‘UUmwelt’ is at the Serpentine galleries until 10 February