– Spring/Summer 1999

Visual Syntax in the Work of Pierre Huyghe

Jean-Christophe Royoux

Pierre Huyghe Chantier Barbès-Rochechouart Billboard, Paris 1994. Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery

Pierre Huyghe Chantier Barbès-Rochechouart Billboard, Paris 1994. Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery

In a recent paper, I attempted to demonstrate the community of thought between the propositions of Pierre Huyghe and other artists of his generation. At that time, it seemed clear that one of the most significant characteristics of his work was the development of an artistic practice that arose from the multiple possibilities inherent in an already existing text.

In the early 1990s, Huyghe began a new body of work that addressed the rhythms of the city and the particular texture that constitutes its flux and reflux. He has since continued to explore representations of time, story and work. Parcours (1992), the first project of this new period, showed the journey of a truck driving through Paris with a man walking on a running machine installed on a platform at the rear of the vehicle. The truck had transparent sides and was lit internally allowing the walking figure to be seen from the outside. Another project, Billboards (1994-95), consisted of a series of posters (4 x 3m) designed to be pasted onto advertising spaces adjacent to scenes or actions of everyday life. By reproducing a somewhat idealised view of the street scene below, the posters reflected various activities such as workers repairing a road. Similarly, the cinematographic remakes such as the famous Rear Window by Alfred Hitchcock, or Uccelacci e Uccellini by Pier Paolo Pasolini (re-shot on the same location as the original production) are further examples of the use of pre-existent texts

  1. This is the demonstration best described by Serge Daney as 'the law of series'. See 'Le Salaire du Zappeur', chronicles which appeared in Libération, Sept-Dec 1987, 1993, pp.85-86

  2. Victor Burgin, Legitimating Narratives, Camera Austria, no.25, 1988

  3. Victor Burgin The Absence of Presence: Conceptualism and Post-Modernisms, in 1965-1972, When Attitudes Became Form, Cambridge: Kettle's Yard Gallery; Edinburgh: Fruitmarket Gallery, 1984, p.21

  4. About the poltergeist, see Henri Michaux, Une Voie pour l'Insubordination, Montpellier: Fata Morgana, 1980

  5. This is one of the ideas I developed in my paper 'D'une Boucle a 1'autre: activité artistique, post-cinéma et télévision', Journal de I'lnstitut Français de Bilbao, no.8, April 1998

  6. Commentary made by Serge Daney in 'Le Salaire du Zappeur', Libération, Sept-Dec 1987, 1993, p.37