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Laura Henno Winner of the 2019 Prix Sam pour l’art contemporain

Winner of the 2019 Prix Sam pour l’art contemporain

Over the last thirteen years, Laura Henno has worked with people who live on society’s margins. Her work explores their fragile ways of life, some of which have developed out of choice but most of which result from forms of social and political oppression. The moments that she shares with these communities over the space of several years give rise to photographs and films that trace the shifting contours of transitory situations and systems of survival.

In 2009, whilst living in La Réunion, Laura Henno began to research the trajectories and lives of people undertaking journeys of migration. This led her to travel to the Comoros, where she met a smuggler and a young apprentice smuggler with whom she formed a close friendship. Until 2021, the artist regularly visited the archipelago and spent time with Ben, Patron and several other undocumented boys and men who live together as a gang in Mayotte. Collaborating with the group, she created photographic and filmed portraits that shed light upon the clandestine lives that they eke out in the invisible interstices of the island and its society.

In parallel to this project, since 2017 Laura Henno has documented the lives of the inhabitants of Slab City, an unmapped settlement in the desert of southern California. At the crossroads of several migration routes, this timeless space constitutes a place of emancipation and freedom that exists outside of American laws, taxes and infrastructure. Filmed and photographed within the environment that they have created, the inhabitants of Slab City suggest further modes of wandering, flight and escape.

At the Palais de Tokyo, Laura Henno has created a video installation featuring films shot in the Comoros between 2013 and 2021. Presented together for this exhibition, they reveal fragments of the lives of smugglers Patron and Ben, of Smoggy, who is no longer undocumented and lives peacefully with his dogs, and of a group of young men who live on the outskirts of Koungou in Mayotte whilst waiting to receive the papers that will allow them to go to school or to work. Marooned between the beach and the city, between childhood and adulthood, between their home country of the Comoros and the French overseas territory of Mayotte, each day they have to reinvent the conditions of their survival. Laura Henno explores the oppressive temporality of these violent and precarious lives shaped by immigration policy, focusing in particular on the relationships between these individuals and their immediate environment, their affective ties with the pack of dogs that accompany them, and their beliefs that seem to be influenced by the atmosphere of the forest at night.


Curator : Adélaïde Blanc


This exhibition benefits from the support of:



From 15/04/2022 to 04/09/2022

Laura Henno

Born in 1976 in France and lives in Paris.

After studying photography, she trained in film and sound recording at le Fresnoy in Tourcoing. Her work has been presented at numerous galleries, institutions and festivals including the Centre for Contemporary Art (Nigeria, 2020, group exhibition), the Institut de la Photo (Lille, 2019), the Rencontres de la Photographie d’Arles (2019), the galerie Les Filles du Calvaire (Paris, 2018), and at the Mac Val and the Musée National de l’Histoire de l’Immigration (Vitry-sur-Seine and Paris, 2018, group exhibition).

photography : Iris Pavec