Alexandre Singh

Alexandre Singh, The Humans. Image courtesy of Sprüth Magers

Alexandre Singh

The Humans, 2013/14, 02:53 hours

Courtesy of Sprüth Magers

Singh’s story unfolds amid a timeless, allegorical landscape: a mountain rises centre stage, separating the realms of Charles Ray, the pontifical Apollonian sculptor, and N, the agile Dionysiac Rabbit Queen. In this space, an ancient yet perennial battle between two forces of Western culture commences. Charles Ray acts as a universal figurehead for order and clarity, while N invests life with lust and wildness, forever refreshing the stage with ecstasy and feeling. This dichotomy is complicated by the presence of Tophole, Charles Ray’s fretful son, and Pantalingua, N’s daughter and interpreter. Seeking to introduce chaos into a seemingly orderly cosmos, they plot to contaminate the sculptor’s perfect statues with the passions, desires and bodily functions of humans – cold stone made wildly animated flesh.

The plot of Tophole and Pantalingua is undermined by the growing unruliness of the humans. Freshly tainted by lusts, hunger and other nuisances, they stage a rebellion led by Vernon Montgomery Spruce – the only sculpture Tophole made in Charles Ray’s studio. The humans embrace their newfound appetites and imperfections, introducing song, dance and anarchy into this otherworldly realm presided over by the mysterious authority Vox Dei. Though never seen, Vox Dei communicates through an air conditioner’s hum, an espresso machine’s gurgle, and a playful black cat, the curious Ms. Chief. Will the machinations of Tophole and Pantalingua corrupt humanity forever? Or will Charles Ray suppress the newfound wildness of his creations? Will Vox Dei provide the revelation they seek, or will the humans be forced to define their own fractured truth?

The Humans is a three-hour video drama that presents a parallel world where an age-old conflict at the heart of Western culture takes place. On one side, the Rabbit Queen embodies a wild, Dionysian energy. On the other, the Apollonian sculptor attempts to achieve perfection of form through his art. It’s a battle that we see in almost every period of art history, from the clash between Venetian colore against Florentine disegno, to the Fauvists (those wild beasts and colourists) against the analytical Cubists, and in the present day, where we see the neoclassicism of Charles Ray against the libidinal wildness of artists such as Paul McCarthy and John Bock. In The Humans, Pantalingua and Tophole navigate and interpret these two positions for the viewer. Singh animates their journey by dipping deeply into the history of art and literature, reinforcing his vision with a strong dose of bawdy puns and petty quarrels. Aristophanes, Shakespeare, Woody Allen, George Grosz, Oscar Wilde, Rabelais and Daumier all make their presence felt. These figures coalesce into a comedy about the complex cultural legacy inherited by any artist today, and the choices he or she must make between wildness and order.

‘The Humans’ production credits:

Written and directed by Alexandre Singh; Choreography by Flora Sans; Light design by Guus van Geffen; Set design by Alexandre Singh and Jessica Tankard; Costume design by Holly Waddington; Make-up and hair design by Susanna Peretz;

Music by Touki Delphine and Gerry Arling, assisted by Annelinde Bruijs, Robert Klein and Amir Vahidi.

Film: Director: Alexandre Singh; Producer: Judith Hulsbosch; Cinematographer: Sal Kroonenberg; Sound Engineer: Frank van der Weij; Editor: Jonathan Stenton; Sound Edit and Mix: Big Black Audio.

Starring: Simona Bitmaté, Jesse Briton, Elizabeth Cadwallader, Sam Crane, Phillip Edgerley, Ryan Kiggell, Flora Sans.

Chorus: Annelinde Bruijs, Sanne den Besten, Dook van Dijck, Loulou Hameleers, Lucia Kiel, Suzanne Kipping, Robbert Klein, Lucas Schilperoort, Gerty van de Perre, Folkert van Diggelen, Amir Vahidi, Sanna Elon Vrij.

The theatrical play was commissioned by Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam. Production Partners: Preromanbritain LLC; Productiehuis Rotterdam; Rotterdamse Schouwburg; Performa 13.