Gallery Cat

GENERATORprojects members show 2012 is currently open and will be until the 26th of February.  It’s a great show this year; lots of high quality work which the GENERATOR team have curated very well into a nicely balanced and interesting exhibition.

My piece, Gallery Cat, is a response to my recent research into animals in art and especially their presence in a gallery. This years members show reflects the boom of the animal as art medium of recent years; including a photo of a dead robin and a taxidermied rooster. The presence of the animal body in a gallery can have a very powerful effect.

My piece however presents the absence of the animal. In the corner of the gallery a cat bed is placed accompanied by a food/water bowl, some toy mice and a used litter tray. White fur clings to the bed and toy mice scattered through the gallery hint at the presence of a cat but there is no cat to be seen.

There were several reasons and considerations behind me exhibitiong this piece as I did (including jokey nods to Tracey Emin and Marcel Duchamp) and I want to leave these open to interpretation, however I have one particular aspect which has been on my mind that I would like to share with you.

In recent years there have been many ethical concerns over artworks which have used live animals in the white cube, including the infamous Exposicion No1 by Guillermo Vargas which an internet petittion gave global coverage and debate to. As the details of the exact treatment of the dog were never confirmed it still remains a mystery as to whether the dog died or escaped, however the legacy of this piece was to open up the discussion of the ethical considerations of using other living beings in art. Since then, to some, it has become abhorrent to have a live animal in a gallery as artwork.I am interested to see what (if any) reaction the mere suggestion of a live animal may cause.

In this case the animal is a cat; often imbued with human qualities of aloofness and independence, would our feelings change if the presence was that of a different animal; say a tiger, or a cow, or a rat?

While at the opening for the show a woman was walking about carrying a small dog. That night the gallery held the presence of a live dog, a dead rooster and an absent cat.

Pets and Pests

We have shared our homes with animals for thousands of years and although it is easy to think of the city as a purely human domain this is not the case; other species are cohabiting with us in this crowded habitat just as they always have.

Some, like cats, dogs and hamsters etc, we actively chose as our companions, others, such as robins, butterflies etc, we openly invite into parks and gardens for our pleasure, while still others, rats, pigeons and bugs, are unwelcome guests in our homes and streets.

So what determines our relationships with different species of animals and why are some considered ‘pets’ while others are labelled ‘pests’? Why do we engage with some species more than with others and how does this affect our relationship with them? What happens when a species crosses the boundary and is re-categorised?

With these questions in mind I have begun to investigate Dundee’s animal populations. I have been lucky enough to speak to people from the Countryside Ranger service and from Dundee City Councils pest control team, all of whom have been extremely helpful in providing starting points for my explorations.

In the coming weeks I intend to continue these dialogues with a view to creating artworks which open up discussion and create awareness of the diversity of life in Dundee and how we may be able to create and maintain a balance.