Sunday 19 August 2018

My Monster: The Human-Animal Hybrid exhibition review

My Monster: The Human-Animal Hybrid is an exhibition at RMIT Gallery that looks at our relationships and perceptions of the non-humans who are among us. Curated by Evelyn Tsitas, the exhibition is divided into five different and curious sections: xenos (foreigner / stranger), mythos (stories / narratives), tokos (childbirth / reproduction), eros (erotic love) and kosmos (the world).

A highlight of the exhibition is in mythos, with Moira Finucane and David Verhagen’s Fur Can’t Fly (The Mourning of the Fur). This is beautifully conceived immersive, multi sensory installation that tells of a transformative journey in the mountains of Brazil. The evocative score by Shinjuku Thief and the soothing yet commanding voice of Finucane aid you through your journey. The specially designed vibrating chair and the lighting design by Thomas Dahlrnburg and Verhagen are simply stunning. With your eyes closed, every movement of the chair and sliver of light slipping into your vision makes you believe you are living this uplifting tale.

In tokos, Ai Hagesama’s 2011-13 video installation I wanna deliver a dolphin is a mesmerising short piece of a woman giving birth to a dolphin in a pool, looking at the nurturing role that ties women and animals together. Similarly, the history of Mary Toft and her hybrid birth to “many many rabbits” in 1726 is presented in an engaging, thoughtful and creative way through various works of art and literature, including William Hogarth’s 1726 etching Mary Tofts appearing to give birth to rabbits in the presence of several surgeons and man-midwives sent from London to examine her. The idea that women - and animals - have been mistreated by the medical profession rings true throughout this room and to a further extent, society as a whole.

The exhibition takes a more sensual and sexual turn in eros, with erotic fantasies of human / animal love presented. Oleg Kulik’s Family of the Future is at once confronting in its depiction of a dog mounting a naked man but it also asks us to consider our intimate relationships with animals and raises questions on ideas relating to consent.

In xenos, Kate Clark’s Gallant, a taxidermied deer with a human face, frozen in mid-gallop takes centre place, encouraging us to look at it head on. Also in this room is a lifelike mounted sculpture of Medusa by Sam Jinks where you would not be surprised if it blinked as you stare at it entrances.

There are many ways in how animals and humans are alike and in this exhibition and Tsitas has brought together 35 artists’ work and their varying interpretations to this. With My Monster, Tsitas challenges the viewer to consider the non human beings that we share this world with and how in many ways we remain very similar to them.

While this exhibition has now closed, if RMIT Gallery is not on your radar, make sure it is now as they have two more curated exhibitions coming up, Dynamics of Air (14 Sep - 17 Nov) and Analogue Art in a Digital World (7 Dec - 19 Jan). If My Monster has been anything to go by, these two will be just as engrossing.

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