The artists of ArtAnimalAffect are determined that their art should not only critique but also intervene in the Anthropocene, invade and impose upon this age in which humans are in awe of our own killing power. The work of Kathryn Eddy, Janell O’Rourke, and L.A. Watson bursts in on our self-amazement with acutely emotional amplifications of this discomfiting reality: we are not “above” or “outside” the world we pollute and devour; rather we are no better than devoured things, we deserve no better, and in many ways we are beneath the nonhumans we exploit. I cannot think of a more timely, more necessary interjection for art to make.
To me the most refreshing thing about ArtAnimalAffect is that their interruptions foreground the exploited and consumed. This isn’t just another painting of a mushroom cloud meant to shock-and-awe me once again with the awesomeness of the shockingly powerful. The Gloaming is the uprising of the silenced, the effaced, and the dead. The voices of absent pigs and lambs rise out of menus, the store-bought chicken rises out of anonymity to descend into a reverenced grave, the beautiful bovine body rises out of words like protein and stands above them; so in the strange light of The Gloaming everything that is obscured by everyday anthropocentrism becomes the complicated mist through which, from now on, I must see and hear everything I do.
I think art is activism when, as an artwork acts upon me, I cannot help but rethink my most basic actions, my seemingly automatic ways of being in the world. The works of ArtAnimalAffect immerse all my senses in the complicity of humans’ most basic actions—from using words to shopping for food and sitting down to eat—in the fatal reification of nonhuman animals by turning what we do all the time inside out. But these artworks immerse me in different stories too. They make me an active participant in alternate histories and possible futures where nonhumans and humans live and die together, not as slaves and masters but as Earthling animals.