Kira O'Reilly, one of the most experimental and controversial performance artists in the UK, presented an action/installed performance Falling Asleep With A Pig featuring herself and a sleeping female pig. The artist and pig (Deliah) cohabit a living space, partially viewable by the public for 72 hours. At some point the pig and artist fall asleep. The work addresses the ethics of human and non-human animal interaction, acknowledging the implicit ambivalences and violence in the appropriation of animals as a resource.
Nicolas Primat worked with primatologists and zoos to make a new work in which higher apes are taught video skills. In Portrait de Famille, he is playfully swarmed by a tribe of squirrel monkeys, in Demo Bonobo, he established a relationship via sexual signals with a group of Bonobo apes and in The Making of Les Petits Hommes Vers he and his colleagues make a science fiction film with a group of monkeys. The apes make the creative decisions, with humans simply providing guidance and training. Primat's work explores how the animals' ‘natural’ communication skills can be extended into the realm of human/ape creative collaboration.
Antony Hall's Enki Experiment 4 allows visitors to communicate with an electric fish on the same level, avoiding the use of language, instead stimulating a shared empathy through a physical connection. The work encouraged the public to directly communicate with live electric fish in the gallery space, through mild electrical impulses (both tactile and visual). The artist's motivation for this project relates to his long term interest in aquariums. Typically installed as calming objects, on closer inspection they are revealed as contained environments of both aggressive conflict and submissive tolerance.
The Department of Eagles (Ruth Maclennan) produced a participatory project, examining the communications between falconers and falcons. For centuries, these birds have served to naturalise human surveillance. Arguably, their existence only continues today through human intervention such as tagging, breeding programmes, and the construction of artificial nesting environments. Ruth Maclennan's films Harry and Three short films on Hawks and Men explore the relationship between a bird of prey and the human being who trains it, capturing the rapt gaze of hunter and bird, recalling ancient ideas of shape-shifting and shamanic transformations.
All the artists in Interspecies question the one-sided manipulation of non-human life forms for art. They instead try to absorb the animal's point of view as a fundamental part of their work and practice.
Interspecies is part of the Darwin 200 celebrations in 2009. 12 February 2009 marks the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth.
A series of talks and debates between the artists, writers, scientists and animal welfare experts accompanied the exhibition.
Beatriz da Costa was an interdisciplinary artist, based in Los Angeles, who worked at the intersection of art, politics, engineering and the life sciences. Da Costa’s work usually took the form of public participatory interventions, locative media, conceptual tool building and critical writing. In 2010, Beatriz presented “A Memorial for the Still Living” at the Horniman Museum in London, a project commissioned by The Arts Catalyst as part of the Dark Places project. The exhibition showcased British animal and plant species on the edge of extinction, focusing on “still living” species. The ‘dark place’ refers to the storage rooms of the museum and consequential oblivion, sparingly illuminated by memories of the dwindling few who have encountered the specimens over the years. To realize this exhibition, da Costa worked in collaboration with collection curators at the Horniman Museum and the Natural History Museum in London. In the exhibition, taxidermied specimens of endangered animals lay alongside botanical samples of plants under threat. Each specimen was given a “birth date” (the date of classification and inclusion into the corpus of western science) as well as a “death date” (the date of projected extinction).
Ruth Maclennan is a video artist who is interested in the use of public spaces, a fascination which stems from her days studying Russian at Maurice Thorèse Institute of Foreign Languages in Moscow in 1989-90. Here, the artist witnessed conceptual art installed and performed in squatted Baroque studios and unofficial public spaces. In 2000, Ruth completed an MA in Fine Art at Goldsmiths College, which led to a Leverhulme artists residency at the London School of Economics where she discovered how architecture and design affect human behaviour.
Rachel Mayeri is a multi-media artist specialising in videos, installations and writing projects. Mayeri’s research spans topics ranging from the history of special effects to the human animal. In her video and documentary work, Mayeri uses motion graphics, live-action and storytelling to create compelling films exploring the primate continuum.
Kira O'Reilly is a performance artist, who graduated from the Cardiff School of Art in 1998. Between 2003 and 2004, O'Reilly undertoook a residency with SymbioticA, a bio-art project based in the department of Human Anatomy at The University of Western Australia.