Open workshop for children this weekend at 11am – 3pm: What do animals dream of?
As a child I could never understand why human life was not only understood as superior to the lives of animals, but even more so this moral stand was both understood, and fully accepted, as a truth. It was a truth so fundamental that I still remember the smiles of adults as I would mourn for each fallen horse in a western movie but cheer as the humans were shot. The fictional character Elizabeth Costello in the book “The lives of animals” by the South African writer John Coetzee delivers a series of lectures on animal rights, but Coetzee himself cleverly moves through a number of philosophical view points from a narrative distance, thoughts ranging from a critique on Christian belief systems to intellectual pin-pointing of the lack of understanding regarding non-human consciousness in the thought of Descartes.
The art world has recently seen a heightened interest in non-human consciousness, partly as a response to the global ecological crisis, looking to anthropological movements such as animism as in the greatly appreciated exhibition Animism by Anselm Franke at Haus Der Kulturen Der Welt in Berlin in the spring of 2012, but also embracing a new enchantment with, and understanding of, objects, as introduced by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev into the exhibition platform of Documenta 13. An exhibition project that surely wanted to underline how contemporary art has the ability to grasp “the lived and living, to understand life as carried by the events, and by the singularities actualized in subject/objects.”
The artists within the exhibition project After the Arc ¬¬- An Island: Findings by Team B all have very different entry points to questions such as; if landscape was translated into sound, what music would it take on? Or how can a life lived, by an animal or a human alike, be translated into series of images? And if fascism raises its ugly head in a country, what if we then also were to allow animals to vote on our placemaking? Elizabeth Costello would surely enjoy the ways that Team B takes on the world:
Terike Haapoja has long been dedicated to a research on non-human consciousness. She allows the plants to speak back to us, she documents life as it leaves a body by using infrared camera. In Untitled (a Portrait) we gaze into the eyes of a chimpanzee, an animal very close to us in terms of genetic code, even sharing ancestors with us for about four to six million years ago. The animal in the untitled portrait takes on a pose that brings the secret smile of Mona Lisa to mind. However, the chimpanzee does not smile and the film actually depicts a dead animal as well as the shadowy reflections of people just like us gazing at its image.
Sasha Huber’s Trophies series offers the possibility of re-evaluating history, namely the achievements of the celebrated Finnish artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela. Gallen-Kallela was not only a painter but also a big game hunter, and his trophies from hunting trips in Africa were donated to the Finnish Museum of Natural History where they are kept up until today. I would argue that Trophies series relates more to Huber’s Silverback gorillas-series (a work that holds a strong political awareness of animal rights) rather than her works re-reading the achievements and misdoings of historical men. The dead animal cannot bear witness, but by Huber creating a portrait of the deceased animal, a form of elevated fetish of its bones, the animal’s soul is strangely brought forth. The act of creating an actual portrait of the dead hippo or a stork also undermines our common practice of stuffing and showing off animals shot not for the purpose of acquiring meat, but as mere trophies.
Antti Laitinen built his bark boat shown in the video “Bark Boat” simply because there happened to be a lot of bark on the island where his studio can be found. But who would think of actually sailing a sculptural piece to a foreign country? What if it sinks? Laitinen sails off from Finland to Estonia on a sunny summer morning, not knowing whether the journey will fail or not. Maybe it does not even matter. The viewer is drawn into the pleasures of being invited into an adventure, but also into the bold nature of which Laitinen takes on his close encounters with natural environments, whether consisting of mineral, ice or wood.
Salla Tykkä read the writer and critic John Ruskin (1819-1900) and became both intrigued and appalled by his apparent infatuation with natural beauty. Through examining a number of insistent personal memories such as the powerful white horse, as well as delving deeper into the layers of elitist European cultural history, she begun a large artistic research project that has resulted in important films such as “Victoria”, “Equestrian”, and “Airs above the Ground”. The film “Airs Above the Ground” follows the Lipizzaner horse from its early age as a dark grey filly or colt, as well as the process towards becoming a shining white performance horse with the most advanced classical training; ready to perform the most eloquent of movements together with a rider. The project allows for a meditation around classical European principals such as the infatuation with aesthetics, and the dichotomy between nature and culture. For any rider, the film also underlines the problematic nature of horsetraining and equestrian sports. Why do we perceive animals as naturally subordinant to us? Has the animal asked to be included? How should one approach issues such as resistance in the horse? And how can the highest form of communication with an animal be achieved?
Jani Ruscica’s film 10 Minutes Display of Unparalled Grandeur examines the stereo view cards of the late 1800’s and the early 1900’s, cards that at the time where used as a way to transport the mind, the senses and the soul without travelling. Ruscica used a number of stereo view cards depicting national parks in his project, and the specific colors of the landscape were written on the back of these cards. The film explores the possibilities for music, language and image to take on a sculptural quality. And therefore each element in Ruscica’s film creates an experience of three-dimensionality, just as in nature, whether this being music, sounds of nature or moving image. In the film the effects of closeness and distance are achieved through the film camera’s eye. Furthermore, Ruscica also accepts mediating factors in the artwork, images photographed through a stereoscope are blurry simply because the stereoscope is meant for the human eye and not for the cameralens. The musicians in the film also mediate nature, they make sounds of wind, water and birds. In a sense they become the embodiment of both the landscape and the representation of it as such. The exhibition project After the Arc – an Island also features Ruscica’s film Evolution that allow a number of teenagers involved in theater to stage their very personal take on of how civilization was once created.
Joanna Sandell, curator and Director of Botkyrka konsthall
March, 13 – April, 13
April, 13 – August, 18
Miriam Andersson Blecher
Finlandsinstitutet i Stockholm
Finlands ambassad i Stockholm
Reference Audio AB
IN COLLABORATION WITH:
The Finnish Institute