Twenty artists delve into the relationship between humans and animals
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Twenty artists delve into the relationship between humans and animals
Jason Dodge, Amethist, Garnets and Rubies Inside of an Owl, 2008. Hibou naturalisé, améthystes, grenats et rubis, 55 cm (hauteur approx. du hibou). Courtesy of the artist and Yvon Lambert, Paris.

MONTREAL.- Some fifty works that are bound to spark a highly topical discussion of the human-animal relationship are in the spotlight in Zoo, the summer show at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, set to run until September 3. This group exhibition contains pieces by twenty Québec, Canadian and international artists. Focusing on zoos as a mode of portraying the animal kingdom and living beings, it features works that prompt an examination of the marked interest in animals seen in the contemporary art of the past few years. It also fits in with recent debates about natural history and our relationship to a world that has undergone unprecedented ecological and geopolitical change. Of particular note: in a major Canadian premiere, the work Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Gold by dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is being presented at the MAC for this occasion.

Through their works, the artists explore the tremendous variety of connections that exist between humans and animals, and broach the issue within a very broad perspective. Some artists use this relationship to explore cultural representations, reinterpret anthropological stereotypes or highlight the notion¾still very commonly held¾of the primacy of humankind. Others focus on the collection, classification and exhibition methods that are characteristic of both museums and zoos, which share a similar way of understanding and organizing the world. Yet other artists employ spaces or metaphors that open up to other dualities or areas of conflict. Today, we cannot speak of animals, or of animality, without speaking of our relationship to them and, more broadly, our relationship to the Other.

Multiple approaches to the same theme: the artists in Zoo
The artists taking part in Zoo are: Ai Weiwei (born in Beijing; lives and works in Beijing), David Altmejd (born in Montréal, lives and works in New York), Shary Boyle (born in Scarborough, Ont., lives and works in Toronto), Mark Dion (born in New Bedford, Mass., lives and works in New York), Nathalie Djurberg (born in Lysekil, Sweden, lives and works in Berlin), Jason Dodge (born in Newton, Penn., lives and works in Berlin), Trevor Gould (born in Johannesburg, lives and works in Montréal), Renée Green (born in Cleveland, lives and works in San Francisco), Rachel Harrison (born in New York, lives and works in Brooklyn), Mona Hatoum (born in Beirut, lives and works in London), Pierre Huyghe (born in Paris, lives and works in Paris), Matthew Day Jackson (born in Panorama City, Calif., lives and works in Brooklyn), Brian Jungen (born in Fort St. John, B.C., lives and works in Vancouver), Liz Magor (born in Winnipeg, lives and works in Vancouver), Ugo Rondinone (born in Brunnen, Switzerland, lives and works in New York), Kevin Schmidt (born in Ottawa, lives and works in Vancouver), David Shrigley (born in Macclesfield, England, lives and works in Glasgow), Kiki Smith (born in Nuremberg, Germany, lives and works in New York), Haim Steinbach (born in Rehovot, Israel, lives and works in New York) and Jana Sterbak (born in Prague, lives and works in Montréal).

Among the major works—some of them brand-new—showcased in Zoo:
Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Gold, 2010, by dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, is a remarkable work being shown here for the first time in Canada. It is a reinterpretation of the twelve bronze animal heads, representing the traditional Chinese zodiac, that used to adorn the famous water clock at the imperial gardens of Yuanming Yuan, in Beijing.

Produced specially for the exhibition Zoo, David Altmejd’s Le Spectre et la Main, 2012, takes up elements typically used by this artist and applies them like a leitmotiv. The work suggests a vivarium of surprising size that interweaves a multitude of threads introducing the idea of movement and perpetual metamorphosis.

Also worthy of mention is a large-scale installation by Trevor Gould, titled God’s Window, created specifically for the Musée Sculpture Garden, where it has been built onto the fountain. The sculpture features the monkey figure that often appears in the artist’s work, and its structure speaks to the surrounding architecture.

Finally, Chair Apollinaire, by Jana Sterbak, is a “club” chair made of meat. Its presentation at the MAC is a Canadian premiere.

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