The necessary gaze
The research question informing this keynote address is as follows: What might currently constitute an adequate approach to the visual representation of animals? This question has been central to my research as an art historian and animal studies scholar since the early 1990s, and to the development of my current art practice over the past decade. By an adequate approach, I refer to the construction of imagery that avoids anthropocentric assumptions and is recognizably contemporary. In recent decades many scholars and artists in the arts and humanities have constructed critiques of representation, the pictorial and the gaze, often casting these notions and practices as aesthetically conservative and ethically dubious. An unusually subtle and persuasive expression of this line of thought within animal studies can be found in Rosemarie McGoldrick’s recent essay ‘Unscoping animals’. I consider some of that essay’s arguments in order to shape my own counter-argument for a ‘necessary gaze’, drawing both on Elaine Scarry’s discussion of generous attention and Iris Murdoch’s notion of ‘a just and loving gaze’. My own practice has focussed increasingly on the construction of particular kinds of pictorial space. It is only in retrospect (via ideas adapted from Deleuze and Guattari and from Ron Broglio) that I have been drawn into considering whether and how certain kinds of pictorial space might be less anthropocentric than others, and how that might influence the presence or absence of animals in my recent work. (The exhibition that accompanied the symposium included three photographs from my 2019 series Fish Market, Lagos, with a supporting statement that also appears in section 9 of this keynote address.) The address concludes with a report on a collaborative project-in-progress with the Melbourne-based artist Catherine Clover, in which our focus is on the representation of white storks in European urban environments.
|Web address (URL)||http://hdl.handle.net/10545/624363|
|Publication process dates|
|Deposited||08 Jan 2020, 09:53|
|Contributors||University of Derby|
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