i spy wild | life
Mahatma Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” If indeed our current cultural climate is to live lives in a morally progressive manner, I believe that we need to step back and spy on ourselves to see the contradictions around the topic of ‘the animal’ more clearly.
To do this we first need to recognize that there are two different types of animals in our lives: the animal as cultural subject matter and the physical wild animal that is an integral part of our natural environment.
As a cultural subject matter, the animal stretches across a very broad spectrum. In one end of the spectrum they are simply a commodity: a steady revenue stream for business owners (ie.: eco- tourism operator, trophy hunter, breeders for fur, etc.). To others, animals are sentient and are family members no different than a sibling or child. To others animals are symbolic of personal life experiences and hold deep meaning whether interacted with in person, symbolically represented in our homes, in our dreams, or in random thoughts. To others they are deities and hold profound spiritual significance that guide one’s path regardless of what life experiences they may encounter.
As part of our physical environment we know that wild animals are integral to the sustainability of our delicate ecosystems. We know that the act of removing a species and humans moving into or altering a habitat which supports a species has an impact on the entire network (yet we continue to do so as individuals and as a society).
As an artist I am interested in evaluating the grey areas and the overlap between these two types of animals. For instance, while we live in a society that largely embraces animals as part of our self-identity, we also knowingly and routinely act towards their demise when it suits our individual self-interests. How do we reconcile our devotion to living with one type of animal against our indifference to say, our neighbours’ trapping and killing of another type of animal? Where does one draw the line between having animals in ones’ social circle to calling the conservation officer about a wild animal in the neighborhood? How is it that we can eat one type of animal without a moments’ thought about it and also feel deep spiritual sorrow for a lifetime at the loss of another?
I began this body of work as a way to examine the varied nature in which we as a western society regard wild animals (as opposed to our more familiar domestic animals). Through the process however, I have come to understand that our level of engagement towards the physical ‘other’ (animal and otherwise) reveals far more about our cultural identity than I initially considered possible. My hope with this exhibition is for the viewer to reflect upon ‘the animal’, so to spot the gaps and consider the overlaps between the cultural animal and the physical animal in their own life.
Additional exhibition images can be found here.