Office of Unreplied Emails
Installation view, 9th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art
© Camille Henrot
Courtesy the artist and Johann König, Berlin
In her videos, sculptures and installations, Camille Henrot culls together a dizzying hodgepodge of artifacts of contemporary and historical culture—taking a felt, human perspective on an age of rapid automation and finding links among archaic and exotic myths, commodities, and our common experience of digital newness.
Henrot’s new project for the 9th Berlin Biennale is about an individual’s search for retreat, the formation of a new, social contract, and the ethics in which we are implicated. The work addresses ever-changing modes of information distribution and interpersonal experiences that result from the so-called digitization of our present day. It also considers the subsequent emergence of trolling, phishers and scammers—new modes of duplicity, abuse, outrage, and bullying.
Henrot’s Office of Unanswered Emails, created in collaboration with Jacob Bromberg, is a hand-written presentation of sympathetic, over-emotive, and personal responses to one hundred unanswered messages in Henrot’s inbox. These unanswered emails come primarily from environmentalists, politicians, and activist groups, whose causes the artist has previously supported by donating money or signing a petition. They also come from online stores that reflect Henrot’s daily life (Petco, Fresh Direct, and Groupon NY). Although Henrot remains sympathetic to each of the groups’ causes, the emails that she receives from them urgently and even aggressively (“Camille, I need you before midnight”) call on her to fight world suffering or take better care of her pet, home, and body.
Henrot’s proposed responses, written in an exaggerated calligraphy, are a reaction to the senders’ overwrought tone. They demonstrate how—as a countermeasure—banality presents a space of refuge for the neutral, the passive, and the contemplative in the face of the frantic.
The Office of Unanswered Emails asks questions about whether protection from emotional appeals is necessary or unethical, whether silence is a valid course of action, and how we negotiate the connection between—and representation of—the relationship between individual suffering and the macroscopic problems of the world.
The Present in Drag, Book published on the occasion of the 9th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, curated by DIS, a publication of KW Institute of Contemporary Art, 2016, pp.296-297
© Photo.: Timo Ohler
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016