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The Hugo Boss Prize 2002 - Pierre Huyghe

On October 16, 2002, Pierre Huyghe was awarded the fourth biennial Hugo Boss Prize. Inaugurated in 1996, the prize was conceived to recognize and support contemporary artists making profound contributions to the cultural landscape. Huyghe has gained international prominence for works that explore the convergence of reality and fiction, memory and history. Incorporating film, video, sound, animation, sculpture, and architecture in his diverse works, the artist intervenes in familiar narrative structures to investigate the construction of collective and individual identities in relationship to various forms of cultural production. Huyghe is interested in both reading and making possible multiple, subjective reinterpretations of incidents and images that shape our realities. Through such retranslations, Huyghe offers a way for his characters and his viewers to take back control of their own images, their own stories.

At the Guggenheim, Huyghe presents two works, a film installation, Les Grands Ensembles (1994–2001), and a sculpture, L'Expédition Scintillante, Act II: Untitled (light show) (2002), that address alternative modes of representation and communication (both works have been compared to the attempts at contact in Close Encounters of the Third Kind). In Les Grands Ensembles a pair of bleak buildings, models based on 1970s French housing projects, enacts a subtle inanimate drama. Enveloped in fog, the uninhabited scene is both romantic and alienating. "These subsidized public projects ended up being an architectural and social failure," explains Huyghe. "They were a corruption of Le Corbusier's social and architectural Modernist theory." Though meant to be temporary, these structures are still here, much as we may try to ignore them. Huyghe brings the buildings into view and gives them agency. "Without beginning or ending," he says, "the two low-income towers dialogue in a strange Morse code given by the light of their respective windows, a blinking existence."

An uncanny counterpart to Les Grands Ensembles, L'Expédition Scintillante, Act II: Untitled (light show) acts as a giant music box of sorts. The sounds of Erik Satie reorchestrated by Claude Debussy filter through the space as pulsing lights and smoke emanate from the stagelike sculpture. The ambiance evokes a psychedelic concert. Huyghe recalls Rock and Roll being dubbed the new religion. The artist gives form to the memory of this type of collective experience while conjuring the strange connections between the realm of the familiar and that of the unknown.
—Susan Cross

TOP: L’Expédition Scintillante, Act II: Untitled (light show), 2002. Installation at the Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria.
BOTTOM: Les Grands Ensembles, 1994–2001. Vistavision transferred to digital hard disc, 7:41 (loop). Music by Pan Sonic and Cédric Pigot (random program). Edition of 5, 2 Artist’s Proofs.