Artist Animal

Artist Animal

Steve Baker

Print publication date: 2015

ISBN: 9780816680665

Publisher: University of Minnesota Press

Abstract

The central question addressed in ARTIST|ANIMAL is simply this: what happens when artist and animal are brought into juxtaposition in the context of contemporary art? The book’s title deliberately holds those two terms in juxtaposition, without specifying either the characteristics or the consequences of their alignment. Those are what the book goes on to explore. Its chapters consider artworks from the first decade of the twenty-first century by a small selection of contemporary artists from America, Europe and Australasia who engage directly with questions of animal life. These are artists, in other words, whose concern is with the nature and the quality of actual animal life, or with the human experience of actual animal lives. For the most part, at least, their art treats animals as creatures who actively share the more-than-human world with humans, rather than as mere symbols or metaphors for aspects of the so-called human condition. The spread is nevertheless still fairly wide, running from artists with ecological concerns, to those engaging with the temporary or permanent modification of animal bodies, to those seeking to further the cause of animal rights through their work. The features that distinguish this book from the very few others in the field are these: it draws on substantial first-hand interviews with the artists themselves; it explains how contemporary art makes a vital contribution to the wider cultural understanding of animal life; and it insists on the necessary connection of creativity and trust in both the making and the understanding of these artworks.