Time to treat your pet to a bit of performance art?
A new show looks at how we’ve grown to love animals - even to the point of creating performance art for them
When did we learn to love animals? Of course, humans have always admired, feared, loathed, killed and worshipped animals. Biologically, we all are part of the animal kingdom. However, a new show at the Kunstmuseum Ravensburg in southern Germany suggests that love blossomed between man and beast when we began to live a little further apart.
The show, which opens this Saturday, brings together works from the 16th century through to the present day, beginning with Albrecht Dürer’s famous rhinoceros woodcut, and finishing with the contemporary German artist, Ottmar Hörl, who has installed 60 wolf statues on the nearby Veitsburg hill.
Beginning with the fearful, fascinating rhino, which Dürer drew from eye-witness accounts, rather than from life, the exhibition goes on to show how, in the 19th century, animals were brought into more affluent homes, to educate and cultivate children and adults, as pet dogs, rabbits and cats.
As industrialisation distanced mankind from beasts, so artists, such as the German expressionists, began to idealise and sentimentalise the animal’s natural forces. This championing of wild animals over the artificial world took on political dimensions in the later 20th century, with artists and environmental activists such as Joseph Beuys.
However, recent scientific research into animal consciousness and communications has brought the art world into closer contact with the animal kingdom, with artists such as Krõõt Juurak and Alex Bailey attempting to create work for animals, whose work is also included in this show.
“Under the Label Performances for Pets, this artist couple have developed performances specifically for pets,” explains the museum. “In their performances, the two of them turned to the animals through mimicry, noise and movement.” You can watch a little of this pair in action, recorded for an earlier performance, below.
Why not bring your dog along to see what it thinks of all this? But perhaps check with the gallery first. For more on Dürer get this book; for more on Joseph Beuys get this one; for an animal-free diet get Vegan; and for more on how the animal kingdom became so beautiful, varied and visually stunning, get Robert Clark’s Evolution.