Alexandre Singh – The Humans

Drawing on cultural references from Shakespeare, Milton and Mozart to Charles Ray and the Nesquik chocolate bunny, French-born artist Alexandre Singh intermingles a wide range of media to create an immersive theatrical performance that resists categorization.

At the beginning of space and time, in an anachronistic proto-world the two ghosts Tophole and Pantalingua have conspired against the egoistic and vain creator, plotting to prevent the creation of the earth. Their plans fail and instead the so-called humans fall in disgrace and turn into deficient, ill-mannered creatures. Similar to many of Alexandre Singh’s works. His play “The Humans” is a mélange of Greek mythology, biblical motives and contemporary (pop) culture. Whether working with sculpture, collage, performance or video, the works of the New York-based multimedia artist usually evolve around a narrative, blending historical facts with fictitious stories. Based on the ancient plays of Aristophanes, “The Humans” explores issues around the nature of human knowledge and the alterability of truth – in a Woody Allen kind of way, of whom the young artist is an admitted fan.

Being his debut work for the theatre, the first-time director has been brooding over the idea for quite a long time. “All of the pieces I’ve made in the last eight or ten years have been steps in a process of learning how to craft stories in more orthodox genres, with the aim of moving towards theater and film,” he recounts in an interview.

The experimental theatre piece, including script and sculptured masks (which could have been borrowed from a James Ensor painting), was developed in a variety of public formats, from rehearsals to discursive events and lectures, during an eight-month residency at the Witte de With Center in Rotterdam. Premiered at the Rotterdamse Schouwburg in September 2013, it is now touring the world and will be on show at the Avignon Theatre Festival in July. Additionally, “The Humans” was turned into a hybrid video installation – exhibited together with masks and props (e.g. at the gallery Sprueth Magers in London earlier this year), it is nothing short of a “Gesamtkunstwerk”.

May 24th to July 27th, Alexandre Singh’s work is part of the group show “Giving Contours to Shadows” at Neuer Berliner Kunstverein in Berlin.

Photography by Sanne Peper