Considering Cruelty: Animals in Contemporary Art
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Animals have been represented in art from earliest times, emphasising the integral roles they have played within human civilisation as labourers, food, entertainment, spiritual influences and companions. In contemporary society, this representation has come to include the use of physical animals in art, often causing their harm or death. This research investigates the exploitation of animals in the making of contemporary art. It asks how art is complicit in furthering the exploitation of animals within society more broadly, and describes the artwork made in order to evoke a discussion of these cruelties and educate viewers about how society treats animals. Key themes surrounding the different types of exploitation that animals endure within art and society are identified. These themes include: use of the animal as metaphor; violence towards animals in art; how these types of shocking exploitation have the ability to normalise cruelty to animals within society; hypocrisy and the placing of blame as effective ways of looking at the artist–viewer relationship; speciesism and anthropomorphism as at the base of these exploitative practices, with particular emphasis on art that causes harm to ‘lesser’ animals, such as insects and rodents; the animal as an artistic medium; and the concept of education as a solution to this enduring problem. Each theme is approached from the perspective of art criticism while discussing the impact on and by society.
Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Doctor of Visual Arts (DVA)
Queensland College of Art
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Animals in art
Art and society