Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

Animality was an exhibition at the Marian Goodman Gallery in Soho that might be seen as a complement to the Wellcome exhibition which I mentioned recently.  You can see a slideshow of the images here.  This is how their press release about the exhibition began:

‘The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.’
George Orwell

The very earliest cave paintings reveal that humans have cohabitated with animals for millennia.  Yet the relationship is fraught and contradictory: we simultaneously mythologize, venerate, sacrifice, and exploit those who are not of our species.  This paradox suggests that our connection with animals might be more complicated, and far richer, than commonly thought, and that the distinction between human and animal is not at all clear-cut.  If animals have been the protagonists of innumerable myths, subject to countless scientific studies, and featured in some of our most extraordinary works of art and literature, why have they not been more central to the way we humans study our own relation to the world?

Taking this question as its premise, Animality lays down a novel artistic and theoretical framework for interrogating our relationship to animals. It proposes six interrelated themes — Origins, Markings, Crossings, Variations, Traces, Extinctions—and involves more than seventy participants, mostly from the discipline of art but also from film, literature, philosophy, and science.  Its spirited structure juxtaposes artworks and artifacts new and old, high and low, allowing relationships between art and non-art materials to emerge, and creating links between historical and contemporary social and political realities.  While in large part playful and humorous, Animality also stresses the importance of addressing ethical issues, and thinking beyond one’s own values and beliefs, to question accepted assumptions about our relationship to nonhuman creatures.  It suggests that while many distinctions between humans and animals are valid, the two groups are more productively imagined as parts of an ontological whole.

Animality connects to a larger debate around the so-called animal question that has involved such iconic thinkers as Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Georges Bataille, Emmanuel Levinas, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Jacques Derrida, and Michel Foucault. Their interrogations around the relationship between animals and humans have inspired a growing contemporary discourse. Animality is conceived in part as a visual contribution to that conversation while also paying, of course, tribute to the diversity and beauty of the animal kingdom.

And this is a link to a review in the Guardian.  Odd to find two exhibitions in London about the human-animal connection; something in the waters, perhaps.  Although Animality has ended, the Wellcome exhibition continues into the new year.  You really should go to see it.  Maybe if you're spending precious carbon going to that celebratory bash on the South Bank next week, think again.  Stay on the Euston Road and go to the Wellcome Collection.  It will be good for you!   And the coffee will be much better.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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