Ethics, Excess, Extinction

Section One: ETHICS

Ethics is the critical reflection on how we should act, and why — in this exhibition, how and why we should take nonhuman animals into account in our moral decisions. Humans have long grappled with the moral, legal, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of our interactions with animals (as well as with other humans). It is through ethical thinking that we are compelled to protect animals from cruelty, and to challenge the ways in which we habitually think about, and relate to, the animal kingdom.

How do we give animals their due and recognize that they, too, can hear, smell and observe us; that they, too, are thoughtful and emotional beings that share this world with us? Do they deserve to be treated with the same respect and integrity as we treat our fellow humans? Through animals, we learn much about who we are and about our own humanity.

jacquard textile with woman, trees and leaves

Earth

Kiki Smith, 2011, jacquard tapestry, 118″ x 76″, edition of 10, © 2011, courtesy of the artist and Magnolia Editions

Within the realm of mythological storytelling and spiritual traditions, the role of Kiki Smith’s figures within her tapestries suggests a theme common to all three tapestries: the interconnectedness between human, flora, and fauna. Smith says the cast of plants, animals, and heavenly bodies in her work suggest “how imperative it is, particularly at this moment in time, to celebrate and honor the wondrous and precarious nature of being here on earth.”

jacquard textile with woman, tree, and animals

Congregation

Kiki Smith, 2014, cotton jacquard tapestry, 113″ x 75″, edition of 10, © 2014, courtesy of the artist and Magnolia Editions

jacquard tapestry with animals and tree branches

Sojourn

Kiki Smith, 2015, cotton jacquard tapestry, 113″ x 75″, edition of 10, © 2015, courtesy of the artist and Magnolia Editions

monkey and elephant in ornate Indian temple

The Conqueror of the World, Podar Haveli, Nawalgarh

Karen Knorr, 2010, photography, 29.5″ x 34″ © 2010, courtesy of the artist

Each photograph from the series, titled “India Song,” is both a mystery and a fable, referencing the vast tradition of picturing animals in art, along with the western appreciation and appropriation of eastern culture and form.

The artist calls the work a memento mori — an object serving as a warning or reminder of death — for our species. The sight of this menagerie, inhabiting and inserted digitally into such grand interiors, arouse a sense of displacement, a realization that for all their power, the animal characters evoke the foibles of power, sadness, and do not belong in these habitats.

tiger in ornate Indian temple

Durga's Mount, Zanana, Junha Mahal, Dungarpur

Karen Knorr, 2012, photography, 29.5″ x 34″ © 2012, courtesy of the artist

crane in ornate Indian temple

The Search for Sattva

Karen Knorr, 2008-2014, photography, 20″ x 25″ © 2008-2014, courtesy of the artist

fawn in ornate Indian temple

Sita’s Wish, Zanana, Junha Mahal, Dungarpur

Karen Knorr, 2008-2014, photography, 29.5″ x 34″ © 2008-2014, courtesy of the artist

white tiger in flooded temple

Bhaktii, Path of Sants, Shiva Temple, Hampi

Karen Knorr, 2012, photography, 29.5″ x 34″ © 2012, courtesy of the artist

monkey and pelican in ornate Indian temple

Discussions Concerning Rasa, The Phool Mahal, Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur

Karen Knorr, 2011, photography, 29.5″ x 34″ © 2011, courtesy of the artist

All the Universe is Full of the Lives of Perfect Creatures

Karolina Sobecka, 2012, interactive video, © 2012, courtesy of the artist

Sobecka transforms the familiar ritual of gazing into a mirror into an existential experience of the amalgamation of self and other. The projected animal face both mimics the viewer and acts independently, leading to a dance-like interaction that features reciprocity and originality. The resulting effect invites us to explore self-awareness, empathy and nonverbal communication.

Painting of frightened monkey

Before and After

Gale Hart, 2010, acrylic on canvas, 72″ x 54″ © 2010, courtesy of the artist

Gale Hart’s work raises awareness of our prioritization of animals based on our attachments to them, sometimes going as far as considering pets as our children. Yet, we allow other animals to be treated in ways that we would find unimaginable and unacceptable for our own animal companions.

For Hart, who uses humor as an antidote, there is no justification for cruelty. Why Not Eat Your Pet? is a series that dares to compare our pets to all the other animals we eat, experiment on, wear, and use for entertainment. The intent is to express animals’ pain and suffering, not with shock or gore, but with a work of art that drives a message so poignant that one can’t help but think — and be moved to care.

cartoon Disney dwarves threatening pig

You Don't Pick How They Are Killed

Gale Hart, 2007, pencil and paint on board, 31″ x 25″ © 2007, courtesy of the artist

Disney elephants being threatened by animal handler

Question Ringling's Animal Trainers; They'll Lie and Give You the Finger

Gale Hart, 2007, pencil and paint on board, 24″ x 19″ © 2007, courtesy of the artist

circus animals in bonds made from rusting steel

Will Perform Sick, Tired, or Injured

Gale Hart, 2006, steel sculpture installation, dimensions variable (3′ x 20′) © 2006, courtesy of the artist