Animal Land is a large-scale installation featuring all manner of hand-made creations, corralled together into an island of life, life that may soon be extinguished. Embracing the kitsch and folk, Rosie Deacon, a recent graduate of the College of Fine Arts (COFA), Sydney presents an overblown mass of grotesque figures and forms too compelling to forget.
My first impressions are confused, Animal Land simultaneously repels and attracts. I found myself asking where do I look? And what am I seeing? Should I be disgusted or delighted? Should I walk away or get in closer? Much closer? Rosie suggests that these are fictional creations, but are they?
In the week prior to seeing Rosie’s work for the first time, I watched Robert Kenner’s Food Inc., a disturbing documentary narrated by Eric Schlosser. Food Inc. clearly illustrates the control issues that exist between human and animal species, where the lives of animals are no longer respected or care given to their well being. The conditions in many of the ‘factory’ farms portrayed were appalling to say the least. With these scenes in mind, I couldn’t help but see fear and despair in Rosie’s creations. Huddled together, as if herded by a militaristic force of unseen workers, it is as if the animals can see their impending doom.
Rosie’s work straddles an uneasy balance between human and animal species. As humans, we assume that we have a greater intelligence than animals, and perhaps we do. But perhaps they have something we don’t, and can never know. The wonders of the animal world are myriad, and humankind seems hell bent on destroying the habitats wildlife have equal claim to.
An astounding example of human interference with the animal kingdom can be seen in The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a seething mass of consumer plastic waste with a detrimental effect on wildlife. Essentially an island itself, Animal Land’s population consists of animal forms made using materials of diverse make-up and from both natural and man-made items.
There seems to be an element of the absurd, caged horses, for example. Yet, considering the feedlots depicted in Food Inc, this is not a stretch of the imagination, but reality just a step away. It is in these small details where the uneasy balance between reality and fiction merge. Are they disturbing or outlandishly amusing? Viewed from one angle, there is a line of oversized rabbits with garishly large mouths. Who are they protecting? Man or animal? And just who is that cloaked figure, a cyber grim reaper or a protective shepherd?
As I close this piece, I feel as if I’ve pondered big issues, yet my initial response has not changed. I’m still repulsed yet oddly charmed. I still want to get closer, but am standing at a safe distance. I can’t help thinking Animal Land is some kind of prophetic ark.
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