how art is exploiting our inner lives
THE ZOO is an illustrated monograph about zoo’s, the Spanish conquest of South America, the history of modern art and the gentrification of the mind.
In this short essay I question our current practice of art and positioning it in the context of the history of western art but also the “artistic practice” we encounter in cultures around the world. I think we have much to learn from mythologies and artistic practices modern and ancient that to not obey the western boundaries we have imposed on ourselves.
I believe we are in our current artistic practice greatly limiting ourselves and missing out on what art can mean for us as individuals and as a society.
I have come to feel uncomfortable at times walking in the overcrowded rooms of Amsterdam museums, feeling a bit as if walking in a zoo. (...) Are these institutions, both inventions only 200 years old, really connecting us with our inner lives and our outer world? Or are they only affirming the distance we have created between us, and nature, between our practical lives and our inner
‘Was it a bird, was it the soul, not yet made perfect, of the little phrase, was it a fairy, invisibly somewhere lamenting, whose plaint the piano heard and tenderly repeated? Its cries were so sudden that the violinist must snatch up his bow and race to catch them as they came. Marvelous bird! The violinist seemed to wish to charm, to tame, to woo to win it.’
- Marcel Proust, Swann’s way,
Chapter 2: A History of modern art, p.10
In this story, capturing an animal in a forest will be seen as a metaphor for the artist diving in the collective subconscious to capture a work of art. This can either be a terrifying monster (trauma) or a beautiful animal (hopes and dreams) and will be taken back to the city (the rational mind; in the case of society, it is the ‘public’) so we can collectively connect with (our inner) nature. We will use the whole history of modern art to speak of different approaches hunters (artists) have had to this exploration of the forest (mind).
Chapter 1: The Metaphor, p.8
‘What do we call a piece of work created by the hands of my family? In my home we call it pottery, painted with designs to tell us a story. (…) in my grandmother’s place we call it Kachina doll, a carved image of a life force that holds the Hopi world in place. We make pieces of life to see, touch and feel. Shall we call it art? I hope not. It may lose its soul, its life, its people.’
- Michael Lacapa mixed Apache, Hopi and Tewa heritage
Chapter 3: The Dream, p.38