Archives for category: Taxidermy

speciesisminart pigeons

Artwise, the ‘London based curatorial collective and ideas studio’, who curated the show Beastly Hall, describe their role as, ‘matching clients with some of the most innovative thinking around today’. Disappointing then that eleven out of the 26 featured artists are using animals (living or dead) or animal body parts and include some of the most familiar and least innovative art; taxidermy. Regardless of whether the animal was roadkill, found taxidermy, died of old age or any other excuse given to justify using animals bodies in their work, these artists are contributing to animal suffering. This is because they have assumed the authority of the owner of the animal’s body and image which is then used  to the detriment of the animal and for the gain of the artist.  A fox in an unnatural position lying on a bed snarling (Nina Saunders), a bulls heart with a sword through it (Damien Hirst), the head of one species on the body of another species (Thomas Grünfeld), pigeons fixed together in a mass to make a more ‘interesting’ sculpture (Polly Morgan).

The exhibition hand-out says of Nina Saunders, “Her work is jovial and fun, whilst laden with contemplative ideas.”  Sarah Lucas whose photograph, ‘Sex Baby’, includes a dead chicken is, ” Never one to shy away from controversy, Lucas’s work is known for being provocative and humorous”.  Also humorous is Carina Weidle, her “Olympic Chickens inject some humour into the beastly theme of this exhibition”. Also never-shying-away is Claire Morgan, “never shying away from difficult and decaying material”

Living animals in their natural habitat are already amazing and funny, they are not ours to own or to use in a derogatory way in art.

This is a detail of Hector Castells Matutano’s installation currently on show at The Royal College of Art (finishing 1st July 2012). It features a stuffed fox seemingly strangled by a strip of film, the legs twisted and contorted into a hideously unnatural position. An image of an animal broken, tortured and strangled, as property, as art. At least that is how it appeared to me. I contacted Matutano and tried to set up an email interview to find out more about his work but I received no reply to my questions. Just that he studied biology before art.

Hector Castells Matutano

RCA current graduates also include Lily Cain who displayed dead butterflies as art, pinned to a board with images on them. She was also unavailable for comment. I understand that my blog is dedicated to anti-speciesism and critical from the off, of artists who use animals in their work, but I’m still a little surprised that so few artists and curators are prepared to answer the questions I send to them. During my time at the RCA – only last year – considering difficult questions about your work was seen as a major part of developing as an artist.

Lily Cain

The press release for The Rogue Taxidermy 2012 Biennial tells us that it ‘features 25 of the most interesting artists working in taxidermy today.’ This may be so but unfortunately taxidermy makes for the most uninteresting art in the world today. Non-human sentient animals are not our resources to be used how we will. It makes no difference if the artists pledge to make ‘efficient use of the animals and parts of animals’, use road kill or purchase animals form the grocery store. If male artists presented women in such a degrading way we would call it sexist, if other races were discriminated against in this way this we would call it racist, similarly, to use the body parts of other animals in this way, or any way, is speciesist.

Today I visited the Hayward Gallery to see ‘Brain Activity’, a major retrospective of the artist David Shrigley, curated by Dr Cliff Lauson. The exhibition, which covers the upper floor of the gallery, includes painting, drawing and sculpture. Amongst the objects on show are a taxidermised ostrich, rat, dog, and squirrel. All of the reviews I have read remark on how humorous the exhibition is.

I believe the use of sentient non-human animals as resources for artwork is wrong. It’s wrong because all animals have an equally valid claim on life and desire to live and not to suffer. Simply being of a different species does not mean animals can be used as resources, anymore so than being of a different sex or race.

When art is speciesist, speciesism is it’s dominant narrative.