Animals as Subject

Exploring the Complex Relationship between Humans and Animals

Rob MacInnis   | A.J. Brown | Dylan Wolney | Karen Moe | Venus Soberanes

Opening reception: Fri May 14th, 6 – 11pm, (open mic performance, 8pm)
Panel discussion: Sat May 15th, 1 – 3pm, featuring Dr. Rosemarie McGoldrick, London Metropolitan University, UK
Film screening: 3 – 5pm, Practical ESP: Sensory Perception and the Horse, Q & A with filmmaker, Zoe Kirk-Gushowaty

Sock Monkey Workshop: Thurs June 10th, 7 – 10pm.

Donate and make a sock monkey for Clowns Without Borders for Africa $10

or

Make one to take home for $25. Led by Kat Thorsen, Art Therapist at KLASS (Keith Lynn Alternative Secondary School)

The relationship between humans and animals has long been a topic of avid interest in art and academic discourse. Representations of animals in fine art can be traced back to the earliest drawings on the walls of caves, suggesting that they were the first metaphors, acting as ritualistic stand-ins and sacrifices for the gods. While animal depiction has shifted schematically each century, in accordance with transforming cultural norms, the animal world has continued to exert a significant influence on the collective imagination. This group exhibition features artists who address this complex subject from a contemporary standpoint, exploring the interplay between humans and animals within the current cultural climate: Rob MacInnis, A.J. Brown, Karen Moe, Dylan Wolney and Venus Soberanes.

In John Berger’s important essay “Why Look at Animals?” he examines the particularly modern phenomenon that is our relationship with animals. For him, this new relationship is tied to the emergence and dominance of contemporary capitalism, “by which every tradition which has previously mediated between man and nature was broken.” Before this, animals “were with man at the centre of his world,” productive, familiar, and utterly necessary. This separation reflects a deep polarization that has developed between humans and the natural world, a split that influences all realms of life. Yet in spite of this divide, animals continue to influence us at a powerful symbolic level, and in recent decades, questions surrounding their treatment have become hotly debated. The concept of animal rights has arisen in conjunction with, and as a response to, the normalized cruelties of industrial farming, scientific research and the fashion industry, industries which use animals in a detached utilitarian manner corresponding to the values and forces of contemporary capitalism.

The artists in this show attend to this imbalance in diverse ways, addressing issues of animal presence and subjectivity, the symbolic influence and value of animals, and inter-species friendship and compassion.

The photographs in Robert MacInnis’ “The Farm Family” Project explore the contours of the animal gaze, while appropriating the visual language of contemporary fashion and consumption to probe our attitudes towards the animal world. MacInnis states: “My photographs are inspired by photographers such as Annie Leibovitz and David Lachappelle except I use barn animals as my portrait subject. This allows me to draw parallels between the idealization of the human form in contemporary fashion photography and the subjugation of animals by humans.”

AJ Brown’s paintings of cats speak to the powerful role that pets can play in individual lives; specifically her own life, in which her cat is her constant companion and mirror. Secretly, like Marc Chagall, who always added a rooster to his dream-like watercolours of people and animals, Brown sneaks the spirit of a certain character into each painting. “I put my cat in each one,” Brown says, “and a bit of myself in as well.”

Karen Moe’s constructed images from her new series, “Wilderness” pointedly grieve the absence of animal life in modern life.  Her photographic portrait collages of “food” animals, wild flowers and hand-written text by Canadian Eco-feminist poets, Di Brandt and Catherine Owen, challenge the perception of animals as objects to be consumed, suggesting instead that animals are subjects to be acknowledged. Part of Moe’s praxis is to attempt the depiction of farm animals as creatures that exist independently within their own realm, while at the same time to document their existence alongside human beings as ‘presences among presences’.

Dylan Wolney’s paintings explore the complexity of the natural world, and assert its importance to his sense of self-reflexivity. Using elements of Shamanic tradition, ornament, baroque sensibilities and archetypal symbolism, he highlights the transcendent, spiritual allegiance between man and animal.

Venus Soberanes’ super 8 video work focuses on the interactions between city-dwelling animals and the people who live alongside them. This video installation seeks to visually explore the aesthetic relationships between the city – a geometrical, inorganic construction; and the animals that accidentally inhabit it – organic, colourful, tragically beautiful and fully alive.

None of these artists employ a simple romanticism in their renderings of animals; rather they acknowledge the complexity of their subject matter, not least of which is the present state of animal subjugation. This state is reflexive as well: we human “masters” are profoundly affected by the imbalance we have created. Each artist addresses this state of affairs in their own unique way, raising questions regarding our treatment of animals, and exploring the importance of animal presence in the human collective consciousness.

Media Requests:
Lara Fitzgerald
Programming Director, Gallery Gachet
T: 604 687 2468
programming@gachet.org

To see pictures from this exhibition, please visit our Flickr account
https://www.flickr.com/photos/gallerygachet/sets/72157625131360847

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