Art from the dead: the moral and ethical transformation of the animal pet into cultural artifact

Bartram, Angela (2012) Art from the dead: the moral and ethical transformation of the animal pet into cultural artifact. In: London Conference in Critical Thought, 29-30 June 2012, Birkbeck College University of London.

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Abstract

The body is an important site for analysis of the physical and the social condition. Whether human or animal, it provides information and experience that communicates what it is to be alive – even in death. This has made the dead body a source material to be analyzed, scrutinized, dissected, and surveyed in the pursuit of knowledge. However, whilst it is acceptable in certain scientific, anthropological and museological contexts to unpick the workings and functions of the non-human animal body in death, this tends to appear more provocative in art practice. Ethical and moral considerations of the cognitive and sensory animal in life inform how it’s cultural representation is received within a gallery context.

A reflection of the animal as living and social is particularly relevant in negotiations of companion species or pets included in art works. The pet is an in-between creature placed between human and animal taxonomies and this makes it a problematic art ‘object.’ Produced by taxidermy, dissection or anatomical display, this type of artwork provokes a confrontation to the memory of the domestic arrangements we make with these animals and our experience of cohabitation. The pet body displayed as skin or dead carcass reminds us of the general presence of the domestic animal in our lives. Frustration is often produced at their use within art in death, and this can seem unfathomable.

This paper will analyse and reflect on artworks that incorporate dead domestic pets to understand the cultural, ethical and moral effect of this practice. Taking Jacques Derrida idea that animals have no ‘consciousness of good or evil’1 to inform the discussion it will analyse how sentiment informs moral and ethical regard for the incorporation of dead animals in art.

Additional Information:The body is an important site for analysis of the physical and the social condition. Whether human or animal, it provides information and experience that communicates what it is to be alive – even in death. This has made the dead body a source material to be analyzed, scrutinized, dissected, and surveyed in the pursuit of knowledge. However, whilst it is acceptable in certain scientific, anthropological and museological contexts to unpick the workings and functions of the non-human animal body in death, this tends to appear more provocative in art practice. Ethical and moral considerations of the cognitive and sensory animal in life inform how it’s cultural representation is received within a gallery context. A reflection of the animal as living and social is particularly relevant in negotiations of companion species or pets included in art works. The pet is an in-between creature placed between human and animal taxonomies and this makes it a problematic art ‘object.’ Produced by taxidermy, dissection or anatomical display, this type of artwork provokes a confrontation to the memory of the domestic arrangements we make with these animals and our experience of cohabitation. The pet body displayed as skin or dead carcass reminds us of the general presence of the domestic animal in our lives. Frustration is often produced at their use within art in death, and this can seem unfathomable. This paper will analyse and reflect on artworks that incorporate dead domestic pets to understand the cultural, ethical and moral effect of this practice. Taking Jacques Derrida idea that animals have no ‘consciousness of good or evil’1 to inform the discussion it will analyse how sentiment informs moral and ethical regard for the incorporation of dead animals in art.
Keywords:Bartram, human-animal interactions, Animal, Dog, Taxidermy, Art, Sculpture, antomical
Subjects:W Creative Arts and Design > W100 Fine Art
W Creative Arts and Design > W130 Sculpture
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts (Fine Arts)
ID Code:7195
Deposited On:08 Jan 2013 10:53

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