Animals & Us Q&A with Fiona Parry


What is Turner Contemporary’s next exhibition Animals & Us about?

It all started as a short conversation within the exhibitions team, and the more we researched, the more relevant it was. As it becomes clear we are living through the sixth mass extinction on Earth, many artists are turning their attention to our relationships with animals.

Their imaginative and thought-provoking explorations are the primary inspiration for this exhibition. It is intended to provoke questions. How do we see other animals, from our closest companions to the food on our plates: as age-old symbols, or cognitive beings with emotions and feelings just like us?

What sort of art can you expect to find in the exhibition?

The exhibition brings together a huge range of artworks from historical objects to contemporary works across lots of different media – sound works, sculptures, photography and paintings.

Contemporary artworks include Laura Ford’s life-size sculpture of the giraffe gifted by the Viceroy of Egypt to George IV, which lies on its deathbed dressed head-to-toe in Regency finery.

Then there's Candida Hofer’s Zoological Garten series, in which we see another giraffe standing tall against the fake painted savanna backdrop of its enclosure at Paris Zoo. Meanwhile, Mishka Henner uses Google Earth to mirror our physical and emotional distance from the animals we eat.

These images contrast starkly with JMW Turner’s intimate sketches of 18th century agricultural scenes or the contemporary Inuit whale-hunting scene by Kananginak Pootoogook.

Other artists featured in the exhibition include Andy Warhol, Lucian Freud, Tracey Emin, Picasso, George Stubbs and Paula Rego.

Do you think that the exhibition will resonate with younger audiences?

Yes, of course – the internet is 95% funny animal GIFs and there are cat memes within the exhibition. We want everybody to get involved in this exhibition, so we’re giving people the chance to have their animal photos on show in the gallery through our social media display. All they have to do is tag and hashtag us to have their artwork featured.

You mentioned that the topic of climate change is a huge part of the exhibition – which artists/artworks connect with this topic in the exhibition?

The exhibition is really about how we co-exist with animals and a huge part of that relationship is this huge meat industry we have created. This is a major contributor to global warming and climate change.

One project we’re hoping to realise with our crowdfunding campaign is to take our exhibition out of the gallery and bring a life-sized polar bear puppet to Margate this summer.

We want the messages from this exhibition to be able to speak beyond the gallery walls and so 'Paula the Polar Bear' will roam Margate for 20 days across the summer months creating a truly amazing spectacle in Margate during the busiest time of year.

We want to create memories and inspire everyone to think about their environment, to break the ice when it comes to talking about climate change and sustaining a better future.

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