Animals have always been compelling subjects for artists, but the rise of animal advocacy and posthumanist thought has prompted a reconsideration of the relationship between artist and animal. In Artist Animal, Steve Baker examines the work of contemporary artists who directly confront questions of animal life, treating animals not for their aesthetic qualities or as symbols of the human condition but rather as beings who actively share the world with humanity.
The concerns of the artists presented in Artist Animal Sue Coe, Eduardo Kac, Lucy Kimbell, Catherine Chalmers, Olly and Suzi, Angela Singer, Catherine Bell, and others range widely, from the ecological to the philosophical and from those engaging with the modification of animal bodies to those seeking to further the cause of animal rights. Drawing on extensive interviews he conducted with the artists, Baker explores these vital contributions that contemporary art can make to a broader conception of animal life, emphasizing the importance of creativity and trust in both the making and understanding of these artworks.
Baker is attentive to issues of practice, form, and medium. He asks, for example, whether the animal itself could be said to be the medium in which these artists are working, and he highlights the tensions between creative practice and certain kinds of ethical demands or expectations. Featuring full-color, vivid examples of their art, Artist Animal situates contemporary artists within the wider project of thinking beyond the human, asserting art's power to open up new ways of thinking about animals.
"This book is a tremendous contribution to both contemporary art criticism and the emerging field of animal studies. I can think of no scholar better poised to offer innovative insight into how artists think about and work with animals than Steve Baker. With sensitivity and a rigorous ethnographer’s eye, Baker investigates the complex attitudes and approaches artists employ when engaging the animal subject. What makes this beautiful book so successful is Baker’s deep understanding of the nuance, intricacy, and contradictions in how artists work today."
- Mark Dion
Introduction: The Idiot, the Voyeur, and the Moralist
1. An Openness to Life: Olly and Suzi in the Antarctic
On Drawing an Aardvark
2. Cycles of Knowing and Not-Knowing: Lucy Kimbell, Rats, and Art
3. Vivid New Ecologies: Catherine Chalmers and Eduardo Kac
On Artists and Intentions
4. Of the Unspoken: Mircea Cantor and Mary Britton Clouse
On Maddening the Fly
5. Almost Posthuman: Catherine Bell’s Handling of Squid
On Cramping Creativity
6. Art and Animal Rights: Sue Coe, Britta Jaschinski, and Angela Singer
On Relevant Questions
7. The Twisted Animals Have No Land Beneath Them
Afterword: Art in a Post-Animal Era?
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Steve Baker is emeritus professor of art history at the University of Central Lancashire. He is the author of The Postmodern Animal; Picturing the Beast: Animals, Identity, and Representation; and, with the Animal Studies Group, Killing Animals.