Interspecies art: Bridging the great divide

0 Posted by - March 9, 2009 - Blog, Performance, Screen, Visual art

anthony-hall3We use them as industrial input (an estimated 112 million pigs and over 8 billion chickens divvied up annually in North American alone), we invite them into our families as pets, we exoticize, fetishize and anthropomorphize them through children’s stories, literature and toys. But for most of us, we take our fellow-travelers on planet earth for granted. They are backdrop, research material, here to be used in whatever ways we see fit, for good or ill.

A new exhibition at the Cornerhouse in Manchester, UK – Interspecies – wants to challenge this notion, not with moral outrage, but with communication. The artists in this show try to incorporate the animal’s point of view as a fundamental component of their work.

Kira O’reilly’s performance installation involved her sharing a mound of straw with a pig for two nights in the gallery. The performance was video taped and will be replayed for the duration of the show. Nicolas Primat’s contribution (Primat actually worked with primate scientists) is a film of himself being swarmed by a family of Bonobo monkeys.

The rather remarkable installation by Anthony Hall communicatively links gallery visitors to fish through their biologically generated electrical fields (electric fish). The bioelectric signals from the fish are used to trigger an “immersive sensory environment” for guests (see image) – through which guests can communicate back to the fish. Ruth Maclennan delves into the hawk’s perspective  – of a falconer, of cityscapes, of prey.  And Rachel Mayeri recreates baboon interactions with human actors.

We are, according to some, in the world’s sixth extinction spasm, which means that species of animals are vanishing from the planet at an ever accelerating rate. We can only suppose there will be consequences for the human animals for all of this, but getting to know some of the critters before they are gone seems right, just, even polite.

This is courageous work. Bridging the divide between human and (other) animals is something that should have been done O so long ago – say, before we put our time and energies into developing nuclear power and biological warfare – there is so much to say, and so much to learn.

Thanks to e-flux for the original story.

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