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Artist Animal

2012
Author:

Steve Baker

Artist Animal

A provocative exploration of the work of contemporary artists who engage with questions of animal life

Artist Animal examines the work of contemporary artists who directly confront questions of animal life, treating animals not aesthetically or symbolically but rather as beings who actively share the world with humanity. Featuring full-color examples of their art, it situates artists within the wider project of thinking beyond the human, asserting art’s power to open new ways of thinking about animals.

This book is a tremendous contribution to both contemporary art criticism and the emerging field of animal studies. I can think of no scholar better poised to offer innovative insight into how artists think about and work with animals than Steve Baker. With sensitivity and a rigorous ethnographer’s eye, Baker investigates the complex attitudes and approaches artists employ when engaging the animal subject. What makes this beautiful book so successful is Baker’s deep understanding of the nuance, intricacy, and contradictions in how artists work today.

Mark Dion

Animals have always been compelling subjects for artists, but the rise of animal advocacy and posthumanist thought has prompted a reconsideration of the relationship between artist and animal. In this book, Steve Baker examines the work of contemporary artists who directly confront questions of animal life, treating animals not for their aesthetic qualities or as symbols of the human condition but rather as beings who actively share the world with humanity.

The concerns of the artists presented in this book—Sue Coe, Eduardo Kac, Lucy Kimbell, Catherine Chalmers, Olly and Suzi, Angela Singer, Catherine Bell, and others—range widely, from the ecological to the philosophical and from those engaging with the modification of animal bodies to those seeking to further the cause of animal rights. Drawing on extensive interviews he conducted with the artists, Baker explores these vital contributions that contemporary art can make to a broader conception of animal life, emphasizing the importance of creativity and trust in both the making and understanding of these artworks.

Baker is attentive to issues of practice, form, and medium. He asks, for example, whether the animal itself could be said to be the medium in which these artists are working, and he highlights the tensions between creative practice and certain kinds of ethical demands or expectations. Featuring full-color, vivid examples of their art, Artist Animal situates contemporary artists within the wider project of thinking beyond the human, asserting art’s power to open up new ways of thinking about animals.

Artist Animal

Steve Baker is emeritus professor of art history at the University of Central Lancashire. He is author of The Postmodern Animal, Picturing the Beast: Animals, Identity, and Representation, and, with the Animal Studies Group, Killing Animals.

Artist Animal

This book is a tremendous contribution to both contemporary art criticism and the emerging field of animal studies. I can think of no scholar better poised to offer innovative insight into how artists think about and work with animals than Steve Baker. With sensitivity and a rigorous ethnographer’s eye, Baker investigates the complex attitudes and approaches artists employ when engaging the animal subject. What makes this beautiful book so successful is Baker’s deep understanding of the nuance, intricacy, and contradictions in how artists work today.

Mark Dion

Artist Animal is a tour of the most interesting juxtapositions of animals and art in the early twenty-first century in the company of the most sensitive, open-minded, and subtle commentator on this area. Steve Baker stresses throughout the need to attend first and foremost to art’s ‘difficult work,’ and has given us a book that ducks none of the challenges of these unsettling, abrasive, and exuberant artworks. If there is such a thing as a spirit of animal art, Artist Animal is its foremost expression.

Jonathan Burt

In this compelling critical study, art historian Baker examines the use of animals in the works of several contemporary artists, grappling with posthumanist theory, aesthetics, and other ethical implications.

Publishers Weekly

[Artist Animal] is an intellectually rigorous but still accessible text. … [Baker] steers away from any overt ethical screeds. . . He is more interested in the bigger philosophical picture: the intersection of bioethics and censorship, the different ways there are to see animals and be seen in return, and the idea of art as the product of disruption and uncertainty. … There is enough here to combine a healthy art criticism with popular interest.

Like Fire

Steve Baker has made a particular study of this direction of contemporary art practice, with all its particular ethical complexities, over a number of years as both practitioner and theorist and has been able to draw together his ideas very successfully in this book. In addition to the illuminating case studies that he examines, he offers an authoritative commentary on the theoretical discourse that impinges on the topic.

Cassone Magazine

Readers will be grateful for Baker’s patient and generous in-betweenness.

Animal Studies Journal

Artist Animal

Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: The Idiot, the Voyeur, and the Moralist

1. An Openness to Life: Olly and Suzi in the Antarctic
On Drawing an Aardvark
2. Cycles of Knowing and Not-Knowing: Lucy Kimbell, Rats, and Art
On “Ethics”
3. Vivid New Ecologies: Catherine Chalmers and Eduardo Kac
On Artists and Intentions
4. Of the Unspoken: Mircea Cantor and Mary Britton Clouse
On Maddening the Fly
5. Almost Posthuman: Catherine Bell’s Handling of Squid
On Cramping Creativity
6. Art and Animal Rights: Sue Coe, Britta Jaschinski, and Angela Singer
On Relevant Questions
7. The Twisted Animals Have No Land Beneath Them

Afterword: Art in a Post-Animal Era?
Notes
Index

Artist Animal

UMP blog - Animals, artists, and the question of ethics: A dialogue with Steve Baker.

"There seems to be a lingering expectation that art should provide consolation – the consolation that terrible things are only happening far away, or that artists unreservedly condemn such things."

Read the full article.