Publishers Weekly on Artist Animal

Review of the new book by Steve Baker.

baker_artist coverIn 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. The artists include Lucy Kimbell, who studied rats in every capacity, from laboratories to rat shows, with a "curiosity-driven approach" that resulted in a performance lecture called One Night with Rats in the Service of Art. Investigating grief in Western society, Catherine Bell sucked the ink out of 40 dead squid and spat it all over herself. Others, like Sue Coe, deal directly with the ethical treatment of animals in society. Her 2005 book Sheep of Fools features grim images depicting the "historical development" of the sheep export business. Responding to critics flummoxed by a lack of end goals, Eduardo Kac, who genetically engineered an albino rabbit to glow fluorescent green, remarked: "It's not there to cause cancer, it's not there to cure cancer… she simply is." The final chapters offer similar challenges to critics alongside theoretical speculation on a number of topics, notably on the animal as medium in an increasingly "postmedium" art world. Baker's text is informative and challenging, though it tends to raise more questions than it answers. 64 color plates. (Feb.)

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Published in: Publishers Weekly