Maria Whiteman’s works, Touching Grizzly (Far from your home) and Loved you right up to the end appear as part of Between Species at UVP Everson from February 11 – March 26, 2016.
Whiteman will discuss her work as part of the related indoor screening and talk in conversation with theorist Cary Wolfe on March 26, 2016 in the Everson’s Hosmer Auditorium.
About the Work
Touching Grizzly (Far from your home)
Total Run Time: 2:25
Loved you right up to the end
Total Run Time: 2:57
The Touching project was a turning point for me; it shifted my focus to video and performance art, which eventuated in a series of videos undertaken at the Natural History Museum in Edmonton, Alberta. I touched and caressed every animal held in storage there, hidden under plastic sheets, hung on hooks, stored in boxes and covered in blankets. Touching took about two years to finish, with the collaboration of Mark Edwards, the Curator of the Museum, and it aims to evoke a complex ecology of emotions about animals—not least of all, empathy and mourning. In this project, I was interested not just in the gap or absence of a connection between human and animal life that eventuates in these dead animals in a storeroom—all in the name of a greater knowledge of nature, of course—but more importantly in what produces empathy, mourning, and a sense of loss in relation to non-human life. Empathy and mourning are products of the complex temporality produced by the uncanny relationship between co-presence and absence at work in these images.
The temporality of the animal and our own comes together briefly, but fleetingly, incompletely. The animal bodies in these images will outlast our own, and yet we know nothing about them other than their brute physicality as objects, which serve as a kind of beguiling doorway into another reality. When did they live? Where did they live? How did they come here to inhabit this deadness that poignantly still lives insofar as we feel the urge to ask these questions, to reach out and touch the fur that belonged to the living animal and is somehow, strangely, still here. Can I only think the animal in its death and captivity, in its non-presence, even when I want to make it present by probing the assumptions that frame our ways of knowing non-human life—assumptions that have made possible the dead body I have before me, the “specimen” that confirms my rigorous knowledge of “nature.” Or as Donna Haraway has asked, “who and what do I touch when I touch my dog?” I go from the dead animal to the animal that remains alive (Max my dog) with whom I caress and repeat the question “who and what do I touch when I touch my dog?” It was only months after this video was made that Max got ill and died which made it very difficult for me to continue working on the piece. The time lapse between the death of Max to the present has given the work a different tone which is far more somber and poetic. Her absence made me realize how deeply present her existence was in my life and how long it took to accept that she was gone from my life. I repeat the word I learn most from my relationships with animals and it’s the word compassion.
About the Artist
Aritst Maria Whiteman’s current art practice explores themes such as art and science, relationships between industry, community and nature, and the place of animals in our cultural and social imaginary. In addition to her studio work, she conducts research in contemporary art theory and visual culture. Her critical writings have appeared in Minnesota Review and Antennae. Whiteman was a co-director of the 2012 (BRIC) Banff Research in Culture/ documenta 13 research residency and participated in the Geoffrey Famer Residency at the Banff Centre in 2012. She has taught at McMaster University and University of Alberta and is currently Autrey Visiting Scholar 2015-2016 at Rice University Humanities Research Center. Her work has shown at the Alberta Biennial; Houston Cinema Arts Festival; and the Rice Media Centre (Houston, TX), among other venues.
For more information: maria-whiteman.squarespace.com
Return to Between Species: group show