Pierre Huyghe (b. 1962) was born in Paris, France. He studied at École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris from 1982 to 1985. Since graduating he has been exhibited at numerous international establishments, including a recent retrospective that toured galleries of the world, starting at the Pompidou Centre (Paris). He has also won several awards including the Roswitha Haftmann Prize in 2013 and the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Contemporary Artist Award in 2010.
Pierre Huyghe is a multi-disciplinary artist whose art is centred upon the importance of the image as a semiotic device. All images are interrelated, and it is this dynamic which facilitates an exploration of audience expectations by creating works which must be viewed as part of a whole. Much of his practice focuses upon our innate ability to create, as symbolised by the construction sites present in some of his works. Huyghe presents his audience with a portrait of society as being a palimpsestic entity, upon which each generation leaves its mark. The individuals who make up these societies appear in his work as being divided: they are unique and a part of society. This is mirrored by the function of his works as each being an individuated entity that can be interpreted singularly, but whose full meaning is only truly unearthed within the context of the exhibition in which it belongs. Huyghe’s work can thus be viewed as essentialist; everything has to exist as part of a unity and cannot exist in isolation as it is the structure the object is tied to that gives it the necessary attributes and identity. This can be applied not only to his works, but in a broader sense to all images.
In this way the artist’s oeuvre becomes an exploration of freedom and the individual’s ambition towards it. The human form itself also plays an important role in Huyghe’s work and reflects the viewer’s presence within this system of meanings and relations. There is a propensity towards the animation of objects as exemplified by the inclusion of aquaria in some of his installations. These can be filled with life, which appear to be separated from the viewer, but is still essentially tied to the whole via that which is outside the aquarium. Furthermore, these are fashioned from electrochromatic glass, which at one moment allows the audience to see what is within before suddenly becoming obscured. This suggests the inability to understand through mere perception alone and that meaning can only be divulged by a system of semiotic understanding.