Monday, March 12, 2007

Anker: The Animal in Art

From: Suzanne Anker
Date: Mon, 12 Mar 2007 07:08:47 -0500

From the Paleolithic inscriptions of bisons on cave walls to the biofacts in our
laboratories, our relationship to the non-human animal continues as an open question.
Recently, there have been many texts and exhibitions on this subject, including our relationship to animals in zoos and circuses. Nato Thompson’s exhibition Becoming Animal:Contemporary Art in the Animal Kingdom, at MASS MoCA in the US, included the work of around twelve artists. The exhibition included work by conceptualist/eco-activist Mark Dion, and filmmaker Kathy High. Each of these artists create work that explores the animal/human connection.
Mark Dion’s work approaches the subject of the animal from within culturally designated institutional and environmental contexts. Issues concerning natural history, taxonomy, and extinction are looked at in ecological and philosophical terms. For Kathy High, two rescued lab rats, Echo and Flowers, become protagonists in her film. These transgenic lab rats injected with human DNA (in their embryonic state) and are in fact, biofacts, animal models as living tools (see:, “The Bio Blurb Show.” Artists in the Lab episode.) Catherine Chalmers, who also works with animals has bred and employed the lowly cockroach in her work, pointing at once to culturally determined hierarchies within the animal kingdom. The big cats, lions and tigers, although genetically programmed killing machines have a much more revered
status in society than do rodents.

“Residents: Drinking”, Catherine Chalmers (2004), from her book Catherine Chalmers: American Cockroach, ed. Aperture.

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