Cynopolis is the ancient name of Al Qeis, a city in Egypt. Its Greek meaning is The city of the dog and this is perhaps the reason why many necropolis dedicated to the burial of dogs have been found in these areas. The dog in Egyptian iconography and tradition is a very important figure: these animals are attributed of the role of mediators between the world of the living and that of the dead, just think of Anubis, the god of the underworld which is a human with a dog head. The dog protagonist of Henrot’s work is the symbolic element around which the work is built: by constructing a comparison between ancient history and the present, the artist proposes an anthropological analysis of the human condition over different eras.

The video opens with the shooting of some dogs that run through the desert, moving amused among the rocks, completely at ease, as if to recognize their degree of millenary inhabitants of these places. The shot slowly turns on itself, as in a spin the dogs begin to climb, headed towards an unknown and invisible destination, and then they find themselves upside down until they retrace their initial steps. The sequence of the video suddenly accelerates: dogs are running upside down, human hands appear intent on sorting mountains of plastic, in the frame it is possible to see recognizable elements of the Egyptian landscape, such as the Sakkarah pyramid, the first to be built and received up to our times. In this vortex of images recorded on super 8 film, Camille Henrot offers canonical and central details of her research: the past / present dualism, genealogy and the ephemeral, the real and the imaginary. Trying to stay in time with the succession of images, the observer is invited and, in some way, guided to recompose these apparently opposite poles that follow one another overlapping different materials and temporalities.

Among these images that make temporal leaps, from the archeology of human history to the archeology of waste, the result of the contemporary consumerist trend, Henrot does not lead us in any precise direction, but, like the protagonists of Cynopolis, attracts us in a circular movement, wrapped around ourselves, almost biting our tail. One fragment after another creates a new, paradoxical archeology, in which ancient Egypt coexists with the accumulation of garbage. The artist, poised between the role of archaeologist and anthropologist, with Cynopolis proposes a reflection not only historical but also on the relationship that man has with his past and his present, suggesting, in this vortex, a continuous return of forms in constant transformation, sanctioning the impossibility of any attempt to collect and categorize in a definitive way.


Camille Henrot
Cynopolis, 2009, Video, Super 8 film and DVDCAM, 10’min
© ADAGP Camille Henrot. Courtesy of the artist and kamel mennour, Paris/London