Digesting Project Wolf
I add haggis to my breakfast bacon bap at Glenmoriston hotel, waiting for the bus which never arrives. I’m hungry in a carnivorous way, after prowling through a night in which we failed as wolves to find any deer. But the deer were all around us, we knew it, and I’m sure our predator eyes were spied by all those doe-eyed ones before our headlamp beams could catch their forest gazes. The ground was a sphagnum sponge and my right sock soaked it up through a crack in my welly.
The rubber boots were full and floppy and I felt prisoner to my human gait as we wound uneasy midnight paths over boulders and crags of Dundreggan. I heard once about convicts in colonial Australia who were strapped into anchor-heavy footwear, the souls of which bore the ‘broad arrow’ of crown property to imprint a traceable direction on the ground, in case they attempted escape. Our physical tracks through Dundreggan weren’t pronounced in this way, but our sonic presence marked an equivalent absence of other nighttime creatures, an absence that lingered in our wake. I mentioned to Doug that I felt more like a knock-needed fawn than a stealthy canid, and I wondered what the deer made of our clumsy group rampage through the tall and windless trees as we filled in their silence with our squelching footfall. We weren’t in pursuit of prey, I realised, so much as we were chasing our own trails, Alex carrying a GPS device to record the final night walk of the season. Our ambitious direction confirmed the outermost contour on a graph recording and mapping a month of patient territorial progress.
So Project Wolf wasn’t really about wolves as it wasn’t about deer, but tracking something else: gap-spirit of the imprint ownership leaves on a forest, pruned around capitalist patterns of thought?
Third House is a triangulation of works by Spriggs (UK), Nieminen (FI) & Cooper (UK/US), three female artists who met in the Orkhon Valley of Mongolia. The trio share a site-specific interest in humans’ relationship to animals and nature; they explore and reconfigure the human desire to organize and control a given territory.
All three artists traveled to Mongolia as part of LAM 360 degrees, the third Land Art Biennial. They took different approaches to making work as visitors to this landscape, responding to the site and the people they found there through subtle, performative and subjective interventions. The resulting installations, interactions and gestures have developed through a re-working of primary documents extracted from the site: documentary video, photography, collage, writing and maps.
Spriggs, Nieminen & Cooper share interests in the specific relationships formed between nomadic people and their herds of animals. These modes of communication, control and collaboration with animal herds have evolved through a history of animal husbandry and the negotiations involved in close cohabitation of land and territory. The works exhibited in Titanik provide an opening into the foreclosed “middle kingdom” of nomadic perspectives, and the processes of translation and transition that allow these perspectives to travel locally and (if only partially) internationally as art. The artists collectively inhabit Titanik as the Third House proposed by Anselm Franke: “Everything happens in the middle, everything passes between the two, everything happens by way of mediation, translation and networks, but this space does not exist, it has no place. It is the unthinkable, the unconscious of the moderns.” 
The works in the exhibition have their origins in intimate contact with the Mongolian landscape and the systems of cohabitation and control that its inhabitants have created over time. The artists each translate those systems into different visual languages and spatial arrangements, employing a mixture of diagrams, charts and framings to explore the dynamics of the Mongolian landscape and its inhabitants’ nomadic pastoral way of life. In doing so Spriggs, Nieminen and Cooper work against the gigantic effort of purification responsible for the organization of the social and natural into increasingly separate domains—”an effort whose official languages have systematically obscured the work of translation“; a “middle kingdom… as vast as China and as little known”.
The Political Animal event presents work by members of The Political Animal reading group and its extended network. This was a day-long event comprised of new writing, screenings, sculptural and video commissions, and live performances that reflect upon the conditions of interspecies relationships today. Drawing from studies on animal theory, biology, ethology, philosophy, anthropology and literature, each participant presents their own take on locating the human and other animals within worlds that we have come to call ‘nature’ and ‘culture’.
plastic straws, matches, EU coinage, pill bottle, polystyrene, iphone, anti-scent spray, Youtube instructional videos
Performance Hermione Spriggs + Laura Cooper, Titanik Galleria, Turku, Finland, 13.07.17 / The Showroom, London, 02.09.17
Concert of A-Lure borrows from hunting instructables found on Youtube. The sound + object performance demonstrates the transformation of household materials into sonic lures, made to mimic the calls of prey animals.
“The verb “to dart” is not a notion I easily associate with slugs and snails. “Love”, however, maybe. I once witnessed a slug, centrally placed on a gravel path in a London park, lustfully entwining itself with a smoothly eroded piece of flint that resembled it uncannily in size and shape. I love the poorly focused 35mm snap that I took to remember the day. And in retrospect I love the overwhelming intimacy of this small-scale event, an interspecies Pygmalion, set within the everyday banality of a human city passing it by. It was only when we crouched to better observe the slug-flint chimera that walkers-in-the-park got curious and started to gather – and even then they seemed perturbed to find ‘nothing there’ on the ground where we were staring – just a slug, or a stone, or two of one, or neither.
But for me the slug’s tactile and idolatry exploration of a form that echoed its own became a place-marker, a sort of totem event if you like, that I always go back to when I play one of my favourite thought games. This consists of quizzing myself with a philosophical conundrum: “what would it take to make art for other species of animal? Do they make art for themselves?”
In Greek myth Pygmalion was a sculptor who fell in love with one of the statues he had carved. He loved the figure so much that he wished he could meet its human likeness in the living world – until, one evening on returning home, he kissed the statue on the lips and found that they were warm. I can only imagine that for the ‘dusky slug’ (Arion subfuscus) the piece of flint it was kissing felt somehow protective, not warm to the ‘touch’ if slugs can be said to touch on our terms, but seductively smooth and large and solid, given its placement in the midst of a monotonous field of prickly pebbles and heavy mammalian footfall. A sculpture, or readymade, or cairn… how else would a slug view the image of its likeness other than slithering, like a long muscular tongue, over the flavours of its surface? Continue reading “A SLUG OR A STONE”