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The Unhumane Society


Momenta Art
359 Bedford Avenue, between S. 4th and S. 5th, 718-218-8058
September 15 - October 16, 2006
Reception: Friday, September 15, 7 - 9 PM
Web Site

This the inaugural exhibition at the new location on Bedford Street, titled The Unhumane Society. This collection of painting, video, photography and sculpture points it’s lens at the animal kingdom, but in this documentary moment, something goes awry.

The work of each of the artists in this exhibition slides easily between the human and the animal world. In a video by Daniel Herskowitz, the artist eavesdrops upon conversations among primatologists. As they discuss group behaviors of lower primates, the group dynamics of the scientists seem not so distant. In Stefaan Dheedene’s video an African hunter methodically describing his process of trapping and killing animals. Our attention is displaced by his clinical voice, and, as he discusses his work, punctuated by the diminishing screams of a baby antelope as he clubs it to death. Similarly, in a video by David Burns, a farm family considers the interpersonal relations of their chickens and discuss which chicken must die – as the video presents the loser chicken, beheaded and plucked in reverse. In a video by Liselot van der Heijden, the viewer is left alone to commune with the endlessly looping final breath of a dying zebra. Tom Moore also offers a kind of quiet communion. His photographs of primate cages from the Berlin Zoo, also empty of humans (and of animals) document a frighteningly perfect animal habitat that fulfills every need imaginable.

The other works in the show slip more precipitously between the human and the animal. Like Tom Moore’s photographs, Rachel Lowther offers us perfection – but in the form of seductively smooth, plasticized animal bodies undermined by death and torture. Mark Dion’s taxidermied animal trophies suffer similarly, victims of human development. Breyer/P-Orridge’s absurd, fetishistic sculptural object of a wheeled gumball machine filled with used tampons and swathed with animal pelts suggests the machinistic fetishization of a feminine primal order. Human/animal hybrids are more directly represented in the works of Rita Ackerman and Jason Fox – with his painting of a pathetic creature separated from the viewer by a chain-link barrier and her charming, brutal, doe-like vampires. All pretense and irony falls away with the work of Grace Roselli. In her classically rendered painting, a pregnant woman hunches over skeletal human remains in a post apocalyptic sewage-scape; unable to cope with the human world she becomes subsumed in an idealized nightmare of our animal side taking over. As pathological as it is clinical, it is a nightmare that we all fear.
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