I was delighted this week to be invited to speak at the Animaladies II conference later in the year! Very excited about the line up of speakers. Also – they have used a detail of boobscape for the poster.
How can the use of traumatic knowledge drive the development of new visual languages of empathy and testimony? My recent sculptural series boobscape draws upon knowledges of the lives and deaths of dairy cattle. The madness and somewhat garbled hysteria of the witness, the repetitive compulsion to share and reveal, the necessity to communicate to another, and the inability or struggle to find shared language can also be the productive and generative force of animalady.
Skinning days. The bodies are taken down from their hanging position, and rubbed with talc, rubbing into the crevices, the pits, the groin. A sharp scalpel makes a cut through the skin, and then the process of skinning commences, pulling and rubbing down, pulling, stretching, releasing, it is an ugly task, on par with creating meat lumps from skulls. I’m sometimes callous with my little objects. Sometimes their grip on me is too strong, their tenderness fragility and exposure is too painful to bear. I become meat worker, butcher, in order to do this work, and I make amends [regrettably useless] with small objects. I counterbalance the butchering with the endless work of reparation.
Trauma and empathic witnessing erupt into the creative production processes, creating a divergence of methodologies and materialities, such as; tenderness, care, violence, damage and reparation. These contradictory methods are born not only from the witnessing but the trauma of bearing witness, and the maddening frustration of being positioned as the radical vegan freak, the out-there irrational-nutty-screw-loose-mushy-softy-weirdo-bunny-hugger-animal-lover.
Sometimes I stand at the edge of butchers shops, normally I rush by them, their smell envelops me, covers me in a layer of flesh and fatty tissue, the thick smell of cold death. I wonder at how normal this all seems to people, these lumps of bodies laid out, creatures whose lives were given and taken from them for a meal. How invisible yet visible the atrocity is.
boobscape alludes to milking machines, multi-breasted goddesses, boundary crossings and infringements between human and non-human animals, the abject and transgressive possibilities of milk and motherhood. boobscape is a monstrous amalgamation of paradoxical mammaries; breasts and udders, teats and nipples, droopy, full and empty. The pieces grow together on the wall like mold. They linger discordantly between beauty and horror, between empathy and erasure, in doing so they develop the abject languages of empathic relations with our nonhuman fellow creatures.
Lots of fun exhibiting along with the other artists at Animaladies, Interlude Gallery, Sydney. Big thanks to Sharon Billinge for install help, Amber & Richard for wadding deliveries. The curators Maddi Boyd, Melissa Boyde, Yvette Watt. And of course Yamini Narayanan for taking better documentary photos than me! Also photos available at Interlude Gallery website
Let sleeping (with) dogs lie: crazy Animaladies exhibition celebrates interspecies collaborations in contemporary art.
‘Are we crazy to love and care for other species, at times more than other humans?’ asks co-curator Madeleine Boyd. ‘Other species often love us back in ways that are fulfilling and productive yet free from the conflicts of human experiences’… The exhibition accompanies an animal studies symposium, Animaladies, to be held 11–12 July at the University of Sydney which will focus on the role of madness reframed in terms of species, race and gender as ‘animaladies’. ‘The artworks in this exhibition are wonderful examples of the vibrancy of the field, and the contribution the arts make in animal studies scholarship,’ said co-curator Yvette Watt who lectures at the Tasmanian College of the Arts….
“ANIMALADIES, is a term coined by Assoc. Prof. Fiona Probyn-Rapsey with the intention to reframe stereotypical cultural connections between madness, species, race and gender. Social marginalisation of animal advocates, animal carers and animal studies scholars is resisted by this exhibition. Artists reveal how the ‘crazy love’ of the animal advocate for non-human species can reveal forms of courageous wisdom and persistence in the face of impossibilities and improbabilities.”
ANIMALADIES July 11- July 22, 2016, Glebe, Sydney