A residential development has just been constructed in a forest on the Hudson River in New York State. The new residents have been invited to an event that celebrates the birth of their community. The project is by artist Pierre Huyghe, who is inventing a tradition for Streamside Knolls, the new suburban settlement, and has marked 11 October on the calendar with the aim of making the date a memorable occasion. His goal is to create a new event that can be repeated year after year, and thus to achieve a form of art that is able to modify the public space rather than just temporarily occupying it. A tree planting ceremony marked the beginning of the celebration, in which children dressed in animal costumes took part. The artist designed and orchestrated every aspect of the programme for the event, which included speeches by local authorities, a barbecue, music, and a parade with participants from the local police force, ambulance service, fire department, and all segments of the population. A film documenting the event was the basis for the video installation featured in this exhibition. Following initial scenes that re-create Bambi’s forest to evoke the idea of an Edenic paradise, the focus shifts to a young family moving into their new home, and the film conveys the sense of strangeness invariably associated with moving to a new place. This brief fable, filmed in 35mm, is followed by a chapter of video footage that documents the celebration of the community’s first anniversary. The screening of the film is accompanied by a tree that represents the one planted as part of the celebration, the calendar, and a wall drawing of architect François Roche’s design for a planned community centre that has not materialised. Every element of the project – from the community itself, created ex novo in a place carved out of the natural environment, to the celebration invented by Huyghe – produces a sense of artificiality. The artist’s conception of the event references the myth of Arcadia, the story of Bambi, and other fictions, such as the community known as Celebration, developed by the Walt Disney Company in Florida. Fiction aspires to become reality, and Huyghe achieves this transformation by strengthening the ties that bind the new residents in a celebration that identifies them as a community, in this case based on their connection to nature, and offers them a value they can share.
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