Decapod reality show: Pierre Huyghe’s Frieze commission

Pierre Huyghe - Recollection - Frieze Art Fair. Photo: Philippa Warr

Without a doubt, the star of 2011’s Frieze Art Fair (yes, I’m still working through my camera backlog) was Pierre Huyghe’s hermit crab who roamed an aquarium wearing (and living in) a replica Brancusi sculpture.

The artwork, titled Recollection, was one of the specially commissioned projects at the fair. The fish tank contained the hermit crab as well as a selection of smaller creatures – prawns or shrimp if memory serves – all clambering around the Mars-esque landscape.

Pierre Huyghe - Recollection - Frieze Art Fair. Photo: Philippa Warr

The Frieze description says things like:

This narrative was enacted by particular seawater creatures selected as the players in Huyghe’s aquatic performance. While the conditions in which the players coexisted were constructed within a fictitious narrative, the behavioral relationships between the players were real and not scripted.

Which I remember thinking was an incredibly convoluted way of saying ‘This is a crustacean version of The Only Way Is Essex’ and Denise Van Outen should basically be saying “While the crab head-home and the fish tank may be artificial constructs, these decapods are completely real…”

Pierre Huyghe - Recollection - Frieze Art Fair. Photo: Philippa Warr

It was a fascinating piece and I stayed watching it for a long time. It was a slightly odd experience art-wise, though, because I don’t think I was there because it was an interesting idea behind the work. I was there because nature is fascinating. Hermit crabs are fascinating. Aquatic life is fascinating.

Okay, so Huyghe placed them in the show and created the tank environment – both things that aren’t inconsequential – but if you’re not seeing the piece as art, is it art?

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