AffiliationUniversity of Derby
MetadataShow full item record
AbstractThis closing plenary paper for Portraying Animals explains why serious contemporary art on animal themes in the 2010s needs to take recognizably contemporary forms in order to reach audiences beyond those who already share its particular ethical concerns. In 2013 Giovanni Aloi, editor of Antennae: The journal of Nature in Visual Culture and a significant thinker on art and animal studies, publically announced his intention to distance himself from what he dismissively termed the ‘minor propagandist art’ produced by artists associated with animal studies, and instead to focus on animal imagery made by artists with an established international profile such as Damien Hirst and Mat Collishaw. My own writing from the late 1990s to my 2013 book Artist|Animal had focused on valuing contemporary artists’ distinctive contributions to the wider interdisciplinary field of animal studies, concentrating on those artists directly concerned with questions of animal life. ‘The contemporary animal’ is a position paper outlining a clear alternative to Aloi’s priorities, charting what has already been achieved by these artists and marking out a way forwards that would strengthen this field of creative inquiry. Drawing directly on Peter Osborne’s 2013 Anywhere or Not at All: Philosophy of Contemporary Art, the paper Identifies how and why the formal and conceptual characteristics of contemporary art identified by Osborne are a good fit with much of what is already happening in socially and ethically engaged art. It also argues that the subtlety with which Osborne characterizes contemporaneity creates opportunities for artists with particular agendas to reshape the forms of contemporary practice without diminishing their recognizable relevance and contemporaneity. This paper reset the agenda for much of my subsequent writing (including my keynote for The Animal Gaze Constructed in March 2020), and the ideas first explored there continue to inform my own art practice.
CitationBaker, S. (2015). 'The contemporary animal' [Plenary speech]. Mobile academy Berlin conference, Portraying animals: On the role of animals in pictorial representations. National Gallery, Prague, May.