February 12, 2009 - Arts Catalyst - Interspecies
February 12, 2009


Kira O’Reilly and Delia
Performance, 2009
Photo: Elina Chauveaux

Nicolas Primat, Kira O’Reilly,
Antony Hall, Ruth Maclennan,
Rachel Mayeri, Beatriz Da Costa

24 January – 29 March 2009

70 Oxford Street
Manchester M1 5HN, UK
admin [​at​] artscatalyst.org


There have been many examples in history of ‘living art’, where artists have manipulated the actions of swarms of bees, herded sheep, commanded dogs and sent rats down mazes. But can artists work with animals as equals? Interspecies uses artistic strategies to stimulate dialogue about the way we view the relationship between human and non-human animals.

Interspecies comprises new work by a group of four artists – Nicolas Primat, Kira O’Reilly, Antony Hall and Ruth Maclennan – and existing pieces by Rachel Mayeri and Beatriz Da Costa. All the artists in Interspecies question the one-sided manipulation of non-human life forms for art. They try instead to absorb the animal’s point of view as a fundamental part of their work and practice.

It has recently been discovered that humans are closer to the higher primates than was previously thought. Following the well-publicised observations by primatologist Jane Goodall and others that chimpanzees in the wild, our nearest relatives, resemble us more closely than previously thought, with behaviour reflecting politics, deception and even possibly creativity. What does this mean to how we humans see ourselves as just one species inhabiting a planet in crisis?

Kira O’Reilly, one of the most experimental and controversial performance artists in the UK, presents an action/installed performance featuring herself and a sleeping female pig. The action took place over the first weekend of the exhibition and filmed documentation of the work is shown next to the specially constructed human-pig sleeping space. The work addresses the ethics of human and non-human animal interaction, acknowledging the implicit ambivalences and violence in the appropriation of animals as a resource.

Nicolas Primat is the only artist in the world that specialises in working with monkeys and apes in collaboration with primatologists. In this exhibition, he presents his films Portrait Du Famille in which he is playfully swarmed by a tribe of squirrel monkeys, Demo Bonobo where he attempts basic interspecies communication and The Making of Les Petits Hommes Vers, as well as a new untitled work about face recognition with a spider monkey.

Anthony Hall‘s work ENKI allows electric fish and humans to commune on the same level, avoiding the use of language as such; instead stimulating a shared empathy through physical connection. Bioelectric communication signals from live electric fish control an immersive sensory environment for humans – through which the human can communicate back to the fish. These fish have high intelligence, memory, and learning ability. Historically there is a deep connection with these electric fish and medical ‘healing’ technologies. The project makes reference to the status of these, electric fish, and the ethics of their use as neurological research tools.

Ruth Maclennan‘s work for Interspecies explores the relationship between a bird of prey and the human being who trains it. In The Hawk and the Tower, the modernist buildings of Archway, North London, are turned upside down and reimagined. His Brilliant Eye captures the rapt gaze of hunter and bird, a portrait of the falconer/hawk continuum, recalling ancient ideas of shape-shifting: Shamanic transformations, Ovid’s Metamorphosis, and contemporary cartoon and gaming superheroes.

Rachel Mayeri‘s Primate Cinema series visualises primate social dramas for human audiences. Baboons as Friends, juxtaposes footage of baboons taken in the field with a re-enactment by human actors, shot in film noir style in a bar in Los Angeles. A tale of lust, jealousy, sex, and violence transpires simultaneously in non-human and human worlds.

Beatriz Da Costa‘s PigeonBlog which provides an alternative way to participate environmental air pollution data gathering equipping urban homing pigeons with GPS enabled electronic air pollution sensing devices.

Interspecies is on show at Cornerhouse in Manchester throughout February and March. A series of talks and debates between the artists, writers, scientists and animal welfare experts accompanies the exhibition.

Interspecies takes place during the Darwin 200 celebrations in 2009.

The Arts Catalyst is a London-based arts organisation that commissions new art which experimentally and critically engages with science. It produces provocative, playful, risk-taking projects that aim to spark meaningful conversations about our changing world.

Cornerhouse, 70 Oxford Street, Manchester, M1 5HN, UK
Box office: +44 (0) 161 200 1500
W: www.cornerhouse.org
E: info@cornerhouse.org

Opening hours: Tues – Sat: 11.00 – 18.00, Thurs until 20.00, Sun 14.00-18.00

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