by Anna Salmeron
A kind and well-meaning friend stopped me outside the door or the Danish
Pavillion, warning me that as someone notoriously sensitive to the suffering
of our animal brethren, I might want to pass this one by.
"Wow, are they hurting animals in there?" I asked. "Well....no...but they are
showing animals that look like they are being hurt ". And that, actually, I did
want to look at. I personally find looking at it immeasurably easier to deal
with than accepting veil of denial that such hurt is usually hidden behind.
My friend’s hurried summary statement ended up proving precisely
accurate. Animals being hurt. Terribly hurt. Hurt almost beyond
comprehension. Us humans, and the other animals with whom we share this
Entering the pavillion visitors encounter a nightmarishly sad vision of our sad
earthly reality. The entire pavilion has been transformed into a sordid primordial barn,
with half-human-half-horse-like creatures in profound distress.
The first section to great the visitor features a man-animal hanging dead
from a chain, with a large ham-like thing hanging nearby, both just meat
now. In the other end of the barn is a woman-animal who has just given birth
to a bizarre blue infant of undetermined viability.
Both of these beings are so realistically executed that no one in our group
could say for sure that they were not live human performers. (We got much
closer than personal space conventions allow, and were still not certain.)
This small family unit is surrounded by sod and bizarrely morphed farm tools.
(Now, transporting large amounts of sod into the galleries happens to be a
reoccurring motif in this incarnation of the biennale, and in many cases
comes off just as spectacle for spectacle’s sake - Biennale Artists going big
because they can.)
But in this instance it creates a powerful sensory experience, and feels central to the project's core.
The whole place feels like a barn of some collective human memory - evoking our subsistence past,
with brutality a daily necessity and survival never assured. The suffering of
human and non-human animals literally fused into one terrifying tableau. A
tableau smelling strongly of manure. This barn immediately brought to my mind a Samuel
re our stupefying cruelty to other animals. The fact that this was definitively
a contemporary nightmare was confirmed by the neon-blue fluid that either
fed or sucked from the lifeforms even as it illuminated their offspring.
Standing inside this hellish vision I felt the veil of denial re our connections to
other animals drift away like a fog lifting over the morning hills. And I was
glad. Really happy and glad and rejuvenated.
Because seeing and feeling
things fully is the first step forward in taking back our souls and gaining the
strength to fight for a mutual future together. I left this installation stronger
and more complete than when I entered it. I can think of no higher praise.