Animalism exhibition at Bradford’s National Media Museum

•May 17, 2009 • Leave a Comment

So this is the first Blog on the site, and to begin with i’d like to just explain why i’m doing the blog, it’s aims and intended outcomes. Basically during the second year of my Degree I had begun to write blogs as part of the course, they related basically to critical thinking and it’s relation to art. Though this felt, at times slightly restrictive, it always is i think when you have to write to be graded, so this blog aims simply to be everything my university blogs never could be. It will share much in common, it will be analytical, critical and current however it will (usually) centre on photography only.

Today i went to the ‘Animalism’ show at the National Media Museum Bradford, the show aims to show a view of humans relationships with animals. The first work you are met with is that of Albercht Tubke’s series showing people with their pet dogs. As is the norm with this kind of work, the images show how anthropomorphism often occurs within a human animal relationship. The owners often have their pets in their arms, almost maternal in a sense, turning their pet into their child. The images are interesting and are visually beutiful, however, the issue that plagues the mind when it comes to anthropomorphism is the question of ownership, to own somthing is to itemise it, thus removing any glimpse of the human. So there is always the question of how these animals can be owned and yet treated as people. This juxtaposition interested me and i was questioning it as i wandered around the rest of the show, until. Until i saw Pieter Hugo’s series on hyenna men, I’d seen the work before but only when i saw it in this scenario did it begin do answer the questions i’d previously been asking of anthropomorphisim towards ‘pets’. In the images of the hyenna men Hugo shows the wild beast captured and exhibited by these men. The first few images you are introduced to there is a definate line between master and mastered, thick chains and muzzles seperate the animal from the human, one is owner one is owned. as you move further down the series you move to an image of a man holding hands with an ape. Here in this image, the owner has not dressed his pet up in human close, and yet through the similarities we begin to add human traits to the relationship. The animals in these images are still owned, still not free, not even in their own habbitat, but through the closeness of both species a relationship begins to occur, and human nature begins to pick out similarities so it can justify the relationship. The only way we know how to communicate, to share in a relationship, is Human, not because we are greater but simply because that is what we are, the only way a dog knows to communicate is to be a dog so to speak. What i mean then is that it must, in my opinion, be instinctive to communicate human emotions onto animals, because even as is the case in Hugo’s images, when the animals are most wild, most controlled, glimpses of the human begin showing in the way we enact with them and view them.

On the whole then a very thought provoking show, as was the Don mcculin show upstairs, which i may write about at a later date. Though the ‘conclusion’ i have come to isĀ  a bit sketchy and not at all proven it might lead to more thoughts, more artists and more blogs, and that i think is the way i should work with this blog, linking thoughts on work that i see and maybe even make.

Pieter Hugo