Wake up to the reincarnation of Cleopatra as a CGI karaoke temptress for the information age, created by French artist Marguerite Humeau, in this excerpt from ‘Cleopatra:’That Goddess’. As part of this year’s Serpentine Marathon inspired by the theme of extinction, Humeau, with the help of language specialists to decipher Cleopatra’s voice to sing a love song in nine extinct languages, makes this project engaging + truly special. Marguerite told NOWNESS,’To me she was a very sensual person. There’s this very particular text by Plutarch which describes her voice, but also her presence as someone who was almost bewitching. ‘There was sweetness also in the tones of her voice; + her tongue, like an instrument of many strings, she could readily turn to whatever language she pleased… ‘ Life of Antony (XXVII.2-3)
I love the combination of digital pop imagery along with Humeau’s ingenuity of using extinct languages. Hearing Cleopatra’s assumed breathy + sultry voice, singing an Ancient Egyptian song in Ge’ez, Median, Ancient Greek, Arabic, Egyptian, Aramaic, Ancient Hebrew, Troglodyte + Persian, makes you think about all you’ve ever read or seen about the iconic Egyptian queen, in a flash, but this time, she’s more real than before.
NOWNESS asked Humeau where did the idea to revive Cleopatra as a 21st-century diva come from + she simply said,’ I was really interested in the future of performance + this idea of resuscitating the dead in pop culture. One of my previous projects was a full opera reconstructing the vocal tracts of four prehistoric creatures. What would happen if I could that with Amy Winehouse? Recreating her voice so we could create music from her synthetic vocal chords? And then I thought that Cleopatra would be a good place to start.’