Hilary Galbreaith at Passerelle Centre d’art contemporain

Artist: Hilary Galbreaith

Exhibition title: The Grasshopper’s Ball

Venue: Passerelle Centre d’art contemporain, Brest, France

Date: October 15, 2021 – January 15, 2022

Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Passerelle Centre d’art contemporain

Raised in California and now living and working in Rennes, Hilary Galbreaith (b. 1989) combines American influence with French culture. Her work is deeply marked by the use of tutorials and by the Western concept of “do it yourself”. The “do it yourself”, in French “faites le vous-même”, represents a philosophy of resourcefulness as well as of knowledge sharing, easy diffusion and recycling. Often socially committed, the concept provides an alternative to the market system and to ultra-consumption; it is also linked to the ideas of “less is more” and self-governance. All of these notions are found at the heart of the multimedia practice of Hilary Galbreaith, who multiples videos, DIY sculptures and zines.

The exhibition The Grasshopper’s Ball is conceived as a stroll through the twists and turns of Hilary Galbreaith’s pop universe. Curtains, dyed with natural pigments by the artist, divide the space into sections corresponding to various stages of creation. For several years, the artist has been working on a fiction entitled Bug. The story begins in the city of New New Orleans and focuses on a catastrophe affecting certain humans: an infection transforms them into humanoid insects. The plot evokes horror and sci-fi films, from Starship Troopers to District 9 and B-movies, but evacuates the classic binary conception of “good versus evil.” Three distinct bodies of work have been imagined by the artist: The Bureau, a zine exploring the origins and the creation of a complex and absurd administration for this new marginal world; Bug Eyes, a video series featuring puppets in a reality show; and Parade, the most recent instalment, which mixes performances and films where actors interpret mutants in everyday or festive situations.

In Hilary Galbreaith’s films, languages mingle; English and French become inaudible. Words are transformed into background noise while music is improvised by the artist or composed by collaborators. A detailed understanding of things is not an end in itself, and a feeling of confusion is embraced. Here texts are to be viewed as compilations, of sounds as well as of stereotypes. It is through her joyous punk carnival aesthetics, reminiscent of the Californian artists Mike Kelley and Marnie Weber, that Hilary Galbreaith comes to examine the mechanisms of rejection and exclusion. Her black humour lightly masks the ‘grasshopper’s ball’ – the exhibition’s title – somewhere between the prelude to a forthcoming party and the end of a disenchanted world. With her skilful detours, avoiding a simple critique, Galbreaith defines the political, societal and ecological drifts in which we are increasingly immersed every day.