The Dog that barks:
Elinor Fuchs|Animal Acts|Why look at animals?
The dog that barks has become a constant presence within my work, the image of a cartoon like animal in black and white is used as a tool to create a duality between the safe/unsafe, disturbing/comforting, protected/exposed, discipline/disorder. It snarls and barks and is ready to pounce, it feels childlike and yet there is an unease about its presence. Does this animal wish to do us harm or to protect us from it?
I have been looking at ways in which I can frame my work. To look at my practice as a world which has a landscape, rules, moods, feelings, sounds and colours has been a successful tool in enabling me to envisage and understand the position that my art practice occupies. To do this I have used Elinor fuchs model called “Visit to a small planet” as a guide.
What is space like on this planet?
The dog that barks inhabits a space which is confined, it is a protected space, but also one which is vulnerable. It is both comforting and frightening. The landscape that surrounds it is one that is closely controlled, policed, the dog keeps guard. There are rules, policies and procedures in place here, there are norms which should be followed. There is a discipline to this landscape, one which goes unquestioned.
The mood in this world is both solemn and joyful, it is a childish world with a serious edge. The world is strewn in high vis colours, here nothing goes unseen or undetected. The bright colours highlight its vulnerability and protect it from harm. The dog that barks inhabits a place with sounds that are eerie, sounds which are reminiscent, sounds which list list list and repeat reapeat reapeat things. HAIR HAIR HAIR HAIR HAIR. Occasionally there is an echo of a nursery rhyme or a lullaby.
There is a structure which is socially accepted in the world of the dog that barks. One which only allows play at certain times, there is nowhere to hide. A dangerous tone prevails, no one here is left alone for too long. To play, to run, pickup sticks and climb.
What is the mood like?
What are the social structures?
Animal Acts: Una Chaudhuri and Holly Hughes
The way we interact with animals has shaped and still shapes us as humans, the book Animal Acts explores these relationships and the intersections between animal studies and performance, linking the human and the animal together inextricably within a frame work of play, embodiment and physicality.
The book charts individual’s relationships with dogs, exploring notions of gender, sexuality and obsession. Dogs are loved family pets, breeding machines, sexualised, obsessed over, they become the mirror images of ourselves (See Lacan) of which we project our fears, anxieties, hopes; perhaps dogs here are the ultimate narcissistic phantasy. In this way dogs are a childlike, and like children have all the weight of adulthood projected upon them. Dogs are subjugated by the ‘love’ of their owners, bred to look more aesthetically pleasing; we have removed the wolf from the dog to placate it. Often, we neuter them, removing their potential to procreate or we heighten their sexuality and make them into breeding machines.
‘Before I wanted to breed Presto I had really wanted to cut his balls off. The last male poodle we’d had, Errol Flynn, had been neutered late and was a problem in the dog run. He had preferences, not about sex, but he had a look, he liked a Zaftig, slow-moving yellow dog’. (Hughes, 2010)
When we neuter dogs, they become intermediaries, transitional, further removed from their origins. Taking away a dog’s sexual appetite gives further ownership, the pets sexuality becomes ours, we own that animals balls, uterus, penis, willy, hair hair hair hair!
Why look at animals: John Berger
The communion between human and animal is a complex one, one which has shifted from a symbiotic relationship to one of subjugation and production. In john Berger’s book, I found an interesting insight into the complexity of our relationship with animals, and was particularly fascinated by the way in which humans see themselves, transforms themselves and create metaphors through their interaction with animals.
Talking of the marginalisation of animals Berger discusses how we have ‘co-opted the animal into the family and spectacle.’ Animals exist within our TV screens, in animated children’s cartoons, films and books as representations of ourselves, we apply our lives to animals, they are ‘transformed into human puppets’.
This transformation of the animal into human and vice versa, has become a metaphor for me, one which has its roots between childhood and adulthood. Working with animation I created a ‘dog that barks’ sequence, which is both playful and terrifying, it is at once an adult and childlike representation of the animal. There is a quality to the image which is human like and not just an animal representation. This animal/human/dog figure barks at us, is it communicating with us? Is it warning us? Does it want to play with us? The screams that come from its mouth are equally playful and terrifying, and play on this duality between safe and unsafe.