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Petting Zoo

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Petting Zoo, a video and live performance piece, involved the anesthetization of the artist and four farm animals. Visitors could pet the same animals milling around the completely sedated artist, while videos showing the anesthetization of each accompanied the live performance.  The videos exploit the handheld home-video format to create a forced familial commonality between humans and animals—specifically, two goats, one sheep, a donkey, and the artist—as they submit to anesthesia and the subsequent loss of consciousness.

Richard Orange had the following words to share when he heard about the piece, “There’s an intimacy in willingly allowing yourself to be unconscious in the presence of others.  There’s an intimacy with allowing yourself to be “petted”: laying yourself down and open to another’s touch.  But both these kinds of intimacy make no sense in a public space like a gallery—it’s absurd, impossible.  The two also contradict each other—there can be no intimacy if one party is insensible, absent emotionally and unconscious.  But I think what made me think and talk about the piece so much is more basic—a sort of enjoyment of the humour in all its absurd contradiction. It teases your moral boundaries.  It’s crazy to anesthetize yourself, and sedating goats, sheep and donkeys is funny and just plain wrong.  Somehow, rendering such wily, stubborn beasts insensible is treating them like humans.  Seeing them stumbling around under the influence reminds us of when we’ve been in similar states, makes us more conscious of the animal’s consciousness, that they, like us, have minds to lose.”

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