Alexandre Singh's 'The Humans': a beginner's guide

The French artist brings his lauded, loony art play to London

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  • Alexandre Singh

    Installation view of 'The Humans' at Sprüth Magers.

    © the artist

    Alexandre Singh
  • Alexandre Singh

    Still of 'The Humans' a theatrical performance, 2013

    Photo: Sanne Peper.  Courtesy the artist and Spruth Magers Berlin London.

    Alexandre Singh
  • Alexandre Singh

    Still of 'The Humans' a theatrical performance, 2013

    Photo: Sanne Peper.  Courtesy the artist and Spruth Magers Berlin London.

    Alexandre Singh
  • Alexandre Singh

    Still of 'The Humans' a theatrical performance, 2013

    Photo: Sanne Peper.  Courtesy the artist and Spruth Magers Berlin London.

    Alexandre Singh
  • Alexandre Singh

    Still of 'The Humans' a theatrical performance, 2013

    Photo: Sanne Peper.  Courtesy the artist and Spruth Magers Berlin London.

    Alexandre Singh
  • Alexandre Singh

    © the artist

    Alexandre Singh
  • Alexandre Singh

    Installation view of 'The Humans' at Sprüth Magers.

    © the artist

    Alexandre Singh
  • Alexandre Singh

    Installation view of 'The Humans' at Sprüth Magers.

    © the artist

    Alexandre Singh
  • Alexandre Singh

    Installation view of 'The Humans' at Sprüth Magers.

    © the artist

    Alexandre Singh
  • Alexandre Singh

    'Female', 2014

    With the participation of Flora Sans.

    Alexandre Singh
  • Alexandre Singh

    Number Eleven, 2014

    © Alexandre Singh. Courtesy Sprüth Magers Berlin London / Art:Concept, Paris
    / Metro Pictures, New York / Monitor, Rome. Photo: Kate Lacey.

    Alexandre Singh
  • Alexandre Singh

    Installation view of 'The Humans' at Sprüth Magers 2014

    © the artist

    Alexandre Singh

Alexandre Singh

Installation view of 'The Humans' at Sprüth Magers.

© the artist

What they say happens
‘“The Humans” tells the story of two spirits named Tophole and Pantalingua, who would rather see Earth not created. The work is modelled on the comic writings of Aristophanes and set during the dawn of time and space… Within its classical theatrical structure, the play deals in a contemporary way with ancient questions related to life and death, religion and love.’

What actually happens
Short answer: way too much. Screened in the front space of swish Mayfair gallery Sprüth Magers, this three-hour theatrical farce certainly shows off some Ancient Greek chops. But there are also (over-egged) references to John Milton’s epic poem ‘Paradise Lost’, as well as nods to Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde and Woody Allen. When the cast breaks into song and dance routines, there are even dashes of Monty Python and ‘Les Misérables’ thrown in for good measure.

'Vernon Montgomery Spruce’

'Vernon Montgomery Spruce’ © Alexandre Singh, courtesy Sprüth Magers

Maybe you dreamed a dream?
It felt like it at times. Especially the bit about Tophole being sired by a character based on the hyperrealist sculptor Charles Ray, and Patalingua’s mother being the daughter of a rabbit queen. There’s an especially surreal moment when the Greek chorus springs to life, giving those Covent Garden living statues a run for their money.

Is it any good?
It’s certainly lavish. Singh worked on ‘The Humans’ for 15 months, collaborating with a raft of experts, including British costume designer Holly Waddington and French choreographer Flora Sans. If you’re in the market for a really long art romp, settle back in the plush gallery. We found ourselves wandering off, entranced by the shiny sculptures, glossy production stills and cabinets crammed with props, which are also on display. Sorry, but we’re only human.

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