Monday by Camille Henrot at Fondazione Memmo in Rome
Days correspond to one rotation of the earth; our corrupted months derive from the position of the moon; years are measured by the journey of the earth around the sun. The week, by contrast, is a fiction, a human invention. Yet that does not diminish its emotional and psychological effects. We experience it as a narrative cycle — with associated nadirs, crescendos, climaxes — structured by the particular qualities of its component days.
Camille Henrot’s exhibition at Fondazione Memmo takes inspiration from the first and most disorderly of the week’s days. At its heart are a series of bronzes that hover between the figurative and abstract, a cast of allegorical characters embodying the emotional and intellectual states particular to the beginning of the week. Derelitta, inspired by the painting ascribed to Botticelli, is either unable or unwilling to leave her bed; an athlete stands alone on a podium, defeated; a melancholic dissolves into tears while waiting for a text message that will never come; a fickle figure stands caught between states, inconstant like the moon from which Monday takes its name.
Monday might be tainted with melancholy, yet it is also the day on which we renew our faith in the miraculous. At the beginning of each week (from the Old English wice, meaning “a turning”) we feel the possibility of dramatic change, and the inclination to withdraw from the world is linked with this yearning for transformation. Writers and artists have long embodied the relationship between ostensible unproductivity and creative inspiration — one thinks of Proust in his cork-lined room or Matisse painting from bed — while patience, introspection, and solitude are cited in religious traditions as means by which we can access the divine and effect spiritual change in ourselves. Monday’s transcendence is predicated upon close attention to mundane things. The frescoes produced for Fondazione Memmo — the binding plaster for which is made in the traditional manner, from marble dust and lime putty — integrate found documents, papers, and small objects alluding to Henrot’s own creative inspirations to explore the relationship between action and inaction, the mundane and the extraordinary.
These preoccupations with indulgence, creativity, change and repetition also find expression in the zoetrope (from the Greek, “life turning”) created for the show at Fondazione Memmo. Henrot’s cast of human-dog hybrids dances around a maypole in ritual celebration of renewal and rebirth. That they are tethered to a single point recalls New York’s professional dog walkers, while the inclusion of the zodiacal bull and twins hints at the artist’s interest in astrology as an organizing principle for human experience. The week is, like mythological narratives and astrological charts, a means of imposing order on the chaos of existence. These are the rhythms of our lives, the instruments we use to make sense of our compulsion to repeat. The artist elevates our struggle to get through the day to the status of an epic.
Curated by Cloé Perrone
Fondazione Memmo – Via Fontanella Borghese 56b, Rome
12 May – 6 November 6, 2016
Note: during the summer months the exhibition can be visited only by appointment (until 7 September).