Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir & Mark Wilson
Vanishing Point: Where Species Meet (2011)
For the Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art, Bryndis Snæbjörnsdóttir and Mark Wilson present a new work, shot on location in Göteborg. Central to the work is a series of events where seagulls are invited to share food with the artists.
Bryndis Snæbjörnsdóttir and Mark Wilson in conversation with Andréas Hagström
Andreas Hagström In your art you have researched human relationships with a variety of animals. How come you’ve chosen gulls for this project?
BryndÍs snæbjörnsdóttir och Mark wilson It is less about us choosing certain species and more about them choosing us. Last year we completed a project Uncertainty in the City which explored the concepts of pests and contested borders of tolerance. during Uncertainty we heard stories of gulls and how often Pest Control receive complaints concerning the birds. Often the gulls are protecting their young and see humans as a potential threat, but for humans their aggressive behaviour is unsettling.
AH You say your work is relational and site specific. Would you say the term »relational« also refers to the relationships and interactions with animals that occur in your projects?
BS/MW Yes and more. We are interested in the complexity that objects, names or ideological constructions disallow almost by definition. As artists, by presuming that we know little about something or by observing that it prompts contradictory responses in us collectively, as is so often the case when it comes to our dealings with other species, we contrive to establish a proximity to that thing, or to those untidy responses.
AH Tell me something about what you’ve termed »a challenge to an anthropocentric view« in your art practice?
BS/MW What we aim to question is an anthropocentric position of elevated apartness. We try to find a point of displacement from which one can approach the perspective of an other, in this instance the animal, in order to be able to look more broadly at our own place within the world
AH You have chosen to create an image of a human being sharing food with gulls. Is this a realistic aim?
BS/MW In blunt terms, we can’t be sure. Certainly, we know from observation that other animals have the capacity and the will to share, both in play and in the consumption of food and more generally in welfare and support, not only with others of their own, but across species. That capacity for sharing requires a degree of trust. And the establishment of trust in turn, takes time. In this project, we offer food and in return, solicit their presence in order to make art. It is us who set these events in train, but we are by no means in control of what happens as a consequence. The laying out of food on a table signifies a gesture of hospitality. In Western European culture such hospitality is based on rituals and actions designed to make a »guest« feel welcome. Ideally we will kindle a mutually inquisitive conviviality, and hope to use this as a basis from which to explore another, direct type of human / animal interchange. We take the bread (of companionship) and fish, (the staple food of the sea) to unravel an oft misunderstood myth of sharing and unexpected abundance.
(Andréas Hagström is a freelance crtic, artist, bird-watcher and and an employee of Göteborgs Konsthall.)
Biography Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir born on Iceland, lives and works in England. Mark Wilson born in England, lives and works in England. Snæbjörnsdóttir & Wilson conduct their collaborative practice from bases in the north of England, Iceland and Gothenburg, Sweden. With a strong research grounding, their socially engaged projects explore contemporary relationships between human and non-human animals in the contexts of history, culture and the environment. The work is installation based, using objects, text, photography and video. Two of their recent projects are Radio Animal and between you and me where exhibited at several locations, institutions, museums and galleries in Great Britain and Sweden.
Photo: Hendrik Zeitler