15 July - 2 August 2009
The Animal in Us
The Animal in Us was opened by Dr Erica Fudge on Thursday 16 July at 7pm. Erica is Reader in Literary and Cultural Studies at Middlesex University, London and author of Animal (Reaktion 2002) and Perceiving Animals: Humans and Beasts in Early Modern English Culture (Macmillan 2000).
Sharon Aldrick, Julie Batts, Gail Bedford, Chris Brown, John Cacic, Katrina Coleman, Aaron Craig, Kristy Davies, Trine Deans, Sally Dooner, Grant Hunter, Tomoko Iwahashi, Lisa Kirkpatrick, Julia Meg Koch, Victoria Lobregat, Maxine Mackenzie, Lana Mansfield, Louise McAlpine, Christine Menz, Sarah Mould, Jayde Nicolls, Rose Turner, Rhonda Partridge, Julie Pavlou Kirri, Lauren Potts, Margaret Rayner, Michael Keith Richards, Prue Sailer, Diane Scorse, Penelope Sherrell, Sharon Taylor, Maree van-Tent, Meredith Weaver, Tree of life artists.
The brief for this show at Watt Space developed in 2008 when Rod Bennison and Jill Bough asked a number of Newcastle –based galleries to be part of the Animals and Art exhibitions to be staged simultaneously with the 2009 Minding Animals Conference held at Newcastle City Hall from 12 - 18 July 2009.
With so many myriad ways in which we humans, as one species, interact with all those other species of animals, the challenge was to find a particular focus that would encourage newly emerging student artists to respond and be part of this show at Watt Space. As the program for the conference unfolded it became apparent that all relationships and implications of those relationships between human and other animals would be part of the many discussions to be had, and the title which appeared to signal this The Animal in Us was adopted for the Watt Space show. Students were invited to interpret individually the connection between humans and animals and then to make new works, either individual pieces or bodies of work, for this exhibition. For some students this was a new area of subject matter but for the majority The Animal in Us harnessed and coincided with their own existing areas of research. Responses were also supported by lecturers in various areas of Fine Art at the University of Newcastle who included The Animal in Us theme in their Semester 1 program theme this year.
As proposals from exhibitors came in, the three student members of the 2009 Watt Space Committee, Fiona Lee, Claire Parker and Luke Johnston, joined with me to talk to students about their works and how they were to inhabit the gallery. And so, the show - a very contemporary survey of human responses to animals - including how we domesticate, empower, admire, love, anthromorphise, objectify, misunderstand, symbolize, colonise and exploit them - presented in a range of forms and materials. These works ask questions and present moments of clarity in which the viewer is encouraged and invited to reflect upon the many elements of the complex links that we have to animals.
Many thanks to all the artists involved for contributing to this vital area of discourse.
Watt Space is funded by the UoN Services Limited and supported by the School of Drama, Fine Art and Music at the University of Newcastle. All associated images and information copyright © the artists, Watt Space & the University of Newcastle, Australia. Building images © Roger Hanley