STUART COMER In your solo presentation at Palais de Tokyo last year, entitled “Days are Dogs,” you investigated social and historical constructions around the temporal unit of the week. Saturday, a new 3D film produced for the occasion, which I then invited you to screen at the MoMA, follows the activities of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, an evangelical Christian denomination that observes the Sabbath on Saturday. Shot in New York, Washington DC, Tahiti, and Tonga, the film situates the pursuit of hope for a better life within a broader investigation of religion and human ritual. To begin, I wanted to ask how you identified the days of the week as an organizing structure for the exhibition?
CAMILLE HENROT The Palais de Tokyo is a huge space. Given the scale and the diverse nature of my work, I wanted to provide an organizational framework to ensure that the trajectory of the exhibition was cohesive and familiar for the visitor. I thought that using a temporal structure would be interesting, especially since the days of the week seem natural to us—they are synonymous with routine and discipline—but are actually a construct. While years, months and days are connected with the rotation of the earth, moon and sun, the week is a cultural pattern inherited from the history of Christianity. In contemporary society, however, the increasing ubiquity of digital media has blurred the distinction between day and night, work and leisure. At the same time that this structure has disappeared, it has reemerged on an emotional level. On Instagram, for example, the days of the week are marked by hashtags: Monday’s hashtag signifies melancholia or a reluctance to start the working week; Throwback Thursday (#tbt) is a day dedicated to memory, to your past life; and #FitnessTuesday is a day for sport.
SC How did you arrive at Saturday? At what point in the process of organizing the exhibition did you decide to make a 3D film, and when did the theme of religion come into play?
CH Saturday was actually the beginning of it all. In 2010, while I was still working on Grosse Fatigue, which was later presented at the Venice Biennale in 2013, I came across the Seventh-day Adventists and their presence in the Pacific. I met with an anthropologist, Monique Jeudy-Ballini, who had been studying populations who’ve been exposed to the mission of the Seventh-day Adventists in Papua New Guinea. When I moved to New York and undertook the Smithsonian Research Fellowship, I became very interested in the dynamic between religion and science in American society. Grosse Fatigue felt like a sort of immersion into the irrationality of science. Saturday, on the other hand, looks at the hyper-contemporary influence of religion on the world we live in now, and the way in which religion and digital media have come to advocate the same moral principles. For example, there’s the obsession for transparency, and also for good health. We might not have imagined that keeping fit, following a low-calorie diet or warning about the dangers against smoking would become embedded in both religion and societal moral norms. a moral ideology. Being good is not only about behaving well, but is also about being healthy. There is a moral duty imposed upon us to keep in good health.