Complicated isn’t the same as profound, though it’s often confused as such by art-world gatekeepers, which may explain how Camille Henrot won the Silver Lion at the 2013 Venice Biennale. Her work, which encompasses video, drawing and sculpture, has lots of moving parts. Visually, Henrot finds refinement in chaos while adopting a posture of detached absurdism—understandable, perhaps, for a French artist. Her art compresses the human condition into a taxonomy of hierarchical and behavioral tics.
Presented are watercolors and wall-mounted plastic telephonic devices colored in pastels. The latter resemble a cross between a Fisher-Price toy and that phone you use when stuck in an elevator. A lift of the receiver and a punch of the keypad starts hotline-style messages that offer random bits of advice about all manner of things, including just how annoying hotlines can be. Henrot’s watercolors, meanwhile, depict a bestiary of human-animal hybrids fornicating and devouring what appear to be loved ones.
What does any of this mean? It’s hard to say since Henrot’s answer is simply a shrug that implies, Well, it’s complicated.