The sound of chickens gobbling pierces through all other sounds, and pushes back to my mind’s eye the poultry meat production scenes from last night’s viewing of the film ‘Earthlings’, narrated by Joaquin Phoenix. Jason Christopher’s digital farmyard sculpture strikes at these questions of brutal speciesism directly. Where is the line between the virtual and the real? And if we can imagine the real to be only virtual, then can we escape vindication? Yet in the material world actual chickens are experiencing actual pain, for human gain – to fuel this technocracy we softly envelop our psyche with.
Looking through and past the tangle of digital screens and wiring Yvette Watt’s ‘Animal Factories’ wide angle photographic images hang soberly along the wall. Heavy, grey desolate, the chicken sheds stand monololithic in vast, unpeopled landscapes. ‘The aesthetic of speciest oppression is opaque’ (Earthlings).
Another improbable, contemporary sound, far from the farmyard chatterbox melodies of digital chickens, emits from Hayden Fowler’s ‘New World Order’. A constructed landscape of a grayed forest floor setting, populated by fancy birds. Their crowing postures emit bleeps and vibrations, that I often find hard to distinguish from the car noises on the busy inner city streets just meters away, outside the gallery. They cause me to pause, miss a heart beat.
Adding to this blend of sounds, found only in this constructed material-nature-world, is the rising buzz of bees transmuting through the echo-chamber of Nigel Helyer’s bee hive. A bee hive, a peep hole, inside the expected structure built from regular segments, but not in their usual order, or with their usual materials. A Lego Brandenburg gate, from the ready-made kit, is graced with a tor added gesturally and in-hive by collaborative bees. An unexpected, but exceptional interweaving of intention and morphological resonance; material-discursive imaginings? Nigel Helyer’s own creative thought process, layering, associative and global, is made real here, not only through his own hand, and imagination, but through a letting go into intra-action with another biotic colony, the hive. From body hive, to hive body, emergent properties are sedimented in material form.
M.Boyd. July 2013