What is animal?
A sacramental deity, food, friend, or foe? Does the animal represent wild abandon or domesticated companionship? Is animality something (or someone) that is on the other side of humanity? Or: is it an element that wells up from the depths of humanity itself? Primordial and otherworldly, what is animal might be thought of as that which resists the symbolic chain of language, yet forms a link between sentient beings through varied modes of sensorial transactions and as such forms something of a peculiar kinship with the arts.
Animality, the exhibition, grew out of an interdisciplinary OPC seminar held this past spring that incorporated a series of visiting lecturers who discussed the subject of “the animal” in relation to their own work. The series included: artist, Pierre Huyghe; scientist, Dr. Roland Kays; media theorist & University of Chicago professor, W.J.T. Mitchell; and art critic, Jan Verwoert. Through the lecture series, discussions, films, and field trips seminar participants endeavored to question the orthodoxy that maintains the line separating humans from animals and the ways in which art itself figures into the debates surrounding animal life.
The exhibition is not intended as a didactic argument lodged in the field of animal studies, but is more of a messy thesis, one which is not hemmed in by the strictures of its own conceits, modestly seeking instead to comprehend something like an animal aesthetic. In keeping with its categorical blurriness or blurry categorizations (classroom as animal, exhibition as menagerie, education in/of the field), the show includes art and artists from beyond the territorial boundaries of the seminar that expand the definition of animality.
Contributors to the exhibition include: Marius Aleksa, Theresa Ganz, Sara Garth, David Giordano, Jacqueline Hendrickson, Samantha Jones, Stacee Kalmanovsky, Melanie Kassel, Jessie Mott, Jasmine Neal, Elle Opitz, Hannah Pae, Valentina Solano, Cassandra Troyan, Jan Verwoert, Erik Wenzel and May Yeung.