Friday, May 16, 2008

The Postmodern Animal

There is a whole universe of animal related art to be found out there. Much of it could be lovingly categorized under the heading: "Weird as Hell!" What's going on? In these progressive circles, we encounter what academics refer to as the postmodern animal as the primary subject and muse. By and large, today's artists have moved beyond focusing on anthropomorphism, or even the mysteriousness of animal consciousness. Steve Baker, the founder of The Animal Studies Group and author of The Postmodern Animal, assesses the current state of the art: "There is no symbolism or metaphor involved, nothing to keep the animal-as-other at a safe and comfortable distance, but instead a sense of the artist embracing awkward, provisional, and rather unflattering identities — getting close to the animal without worrying too much about the consequences."

This blog was originally titled Anthropomo Zoo in a nod to the Post Modern (PoMo) animal. But I quickly decided that was incorrect. While I can appreciate the efforts of these envelope pushing artists, I personally remain deeply interested in the otherness of animals, their inscrutable inner lives, what they stand for, how we use them as metaphors, and how they adapt to our civilization. Does that mean I'm interested in Modern Animals instead of Postmodern ones? Could be. I'll let the artists and the academics decide the titles for now.

(Still from the installation "Cultural Animal" by Xu Bing )

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