artist / participant
October 12, 2019–January 26,
Museion presents Oscillations, Marguerite Humeau’s first solo show in an Italian museum. In her work, Humeau (b. 1986, Cholet, France) investigates the contemporary period, the digital era. At first she delves into the great enigmas of humanity—our age-old attempts to establish a connection with the universe and to try and find a meaning to life and death—then she sets out to resurrect these very mysteries. The artist adopts a speculative, interdisciplinary approach to her research and works with experts from different disciplines. From her multi-faceted work—made up mainly of drawings and sound and sculpture installations—open hypotheses emerge that stimulate the viewer’s imagination.
The exhibition in Bolzano is the third and final stage of a broader project which has already taken in the New Museum in New York (Birth Canal, 2018) and the Kunstverein in Hamburg (Ecstasies, 2019). Oscillations presents a group of sculptures in bronze, alabaster, marble and stone in a large, immersive installation. The mystery that underpins this show revolves around prehistoric Venus statuettes, which date back to the Paleolithic era (about 35,000–11,000 years ago). In particular, the artist explores the influences that psychoactive substances present in animal brains may have had on the sculptural forms of prehistoric Venus figures.
No single meaning has been attributed to these prehistoric statuettes. But, out of the various theories on their meaning and origin, Marguerite Humeau has chosen to explore that of the anthropologist Bethe Hagens, who posits a connection between the Venus figures and the shape of animal brains. Hagens suggests that animal brains might have been ingested by early humans to trigger trance states (as they contain psychoactive substances), and that the Venus figurines might be the sculpted recipes of those brain concoctions. In this sense, Humeau set out to identify which animal brains the ancient figurines resembled. The artist then used these associations to produce 3D models which generated the sculptures that make up the “Venus-brains” on show at the Museion.
Placed directly on the ground or propped against the walls of the exhibition space, the sculptures of various sizes are ambiguous-looking Venuses—female humans at different stages of trance and mutation—that Humeau has given a voice to. The intention of the artist is to reenact a speculated scene from a time 150,000 years in the past, when a group of women randomly encountered psychoactive substances for the first time and experienced a new journey of the mind. The Venus-brains, in fact, are also speaking Venuses and, like a membrane, the walls of the museum echo their voices, which viewers can hear even if they cannot understand the language. In this sense, a dialogue has been forged between mental and architectural space: the entire fourth floor of Museion has been transformed to create a space of transition and oscillation between the human and spirit worlds. The exhibition invites the public to engage with an emotional experience of sounds, lights and vibrations that resonate like one huge brain involved in a shamanistic ritual.
The exhibition also includes a series of drawings—embedded in light boxes—representing the research carried out by Marguerite Humeau in the preparatory stages of the project. One of the drawings, Future Exile, is repeated on the ground floor of Museion, in the form of a charcoal wall painting: a large map-brain, that announces and introduces visitors to the imaginative universe presented by the artist.