Animal : Animus
Curated by David Khang
Relationships between humans and other animals are curious and complex: we humans – as human and as animal – depend on them as companions, as food source, and as part of larger ecosystems. We sometimes love them more than other humans, for their so-called “unconditional” affection (is this really true?), and at the same time fear them because of their otherness. One common way we understand them is to imagine that they are just like us, to habitually fall into anthropocentric tendency. In The Animal that therefore I am (2001, English version), Jacques Derrida, standing naked in front of his cat, attempts to rupture this tendency by asking himself: What does it mean to live with an animal? What does it mean for us? What does it mean for them?”
This proposal juxtaposes the works of two local emerging artists, Amy Thompson and Erin Perry. Through their works, both artists address the question of the animal in distinct ways, though their works are not antinomies of one another. Rather, they represent two nodes among many insights of how we are to coexist with others and with otherness.
Amy Thompson’s “Faces” is a series of frontal photographic portraits of birds, each 24”x36”. As a volunteer for local wildlife organizations, Thompson uses her contacts as an opportunity to create photographs of birds in convalescence. The photographs are not, however, warm and fuzzy, as some might assume. The frontal composition and the direct, unrelenting gazing-back of the avian subjects unnerve and challenge the viewer by questioning how we are to look at these subjects, while avoiding simplistic “nature vs. culture” binary readings. While Thompson’s photographs are rooted in reality, the framing of the subject matter leads us to a surreal place, which forces us to look at this inter-species relationship in its uncanny truths that perhaps seem closer to a Hitchcockian cinematic fantasy or the stuff of our subconscious dreamscapes.
Dreams and reveries are access points for much of Erin Perry’s work. While Perry’s 3-dimensional sculptures and installations address animals only indirectly, her subconscious delivers a version of surreality that is perhaps driven by our collective animus. Perry whimsically mixes together organic materials – both human and animal (e.g. eye covers made of shark meat, pillows with fins and tails made of cartilage). These become cathected objects that act as material entry point into her unfamiliar and uncanny subconscious. We recognize the objects, yet we do not readily recognize the relations between the objects. We are forced to reckon, or to re-cognize their/our relations.
David Khang is a visual & performance artist who selectively writes and curates as a part of his collaborative and discourse-oriented practice. In recent works that incorporate live animals, Khang uses language as a trope to consider constructions and performativity of gender and race. Khang received his BFA from the Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design (2000), and MFA in Studio Art with a concurrent Emphasis in Critical Theory from the University of California, Irvine (2004). Khang lives and works in Vancouver, where he is a Sessional Faculty at Emily Carr University.
Animot: Reflections on the works of Erin Perry & Amy Thompson
by David Khang
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