That’s a shark signing his chummy painting above, proving once and for all that eco-art is not for the faint of heart.
It’s an image used by Una Chaudhuri in her keynote address “Animal (and) Planet: Zooesis and Ecological Extremity” at this year’s EMOS. Chaudhuri is responsible for major contributions to the written EcoDrama field, and so wields terms like “gynesis,” and “anthropological machine” expertly (even while folks like Mike Lawler and I are squinting to catch up).
It was a look at performance and animals– or performance and non-human animals, if you prefer. The bookends of the speech were a piece called “Helena”, in which artist Marco Evaristti gave the public the option of pulverizing live goldfish in blenders– and the work of Olly and Suzi, who go out into the wilderness and make collaborative paintings with animals ( not just your alley cat or field mouse: see above).
So here I am, at a conference intended to examine the relationship between our planet and our performance art, and I have to confess that I feel silly using the term “non-human animal.” But that’s the essence of what Una Chaudhuri is addressing: at what point do we stop looking at “the others” as something we manipulate and use, and start acknowledging them as collaborators in our community– ecologically, and in this case, artistically?
These same themes come up again and powerfully in EMOS during a panel on Rachel Rosenthal’s work, and in the context of the artist’s own flesh and blood. There’s also much more: green theater practices, Boal, space, giraffes, rituals and rollings on the grass– I’ll be posting more frequently in the next week as the eco-nerddery swells my brain . . .