The Political Animal event, 2 September 2017, The Showroom

The Political Animal event presents work by members of The Political Animal reading group and its extended network. This was a day-long event comprised of new writing, screenings, sculptural and video commissions, and live performances that reflect upon the conditions of interspecies relationships today. Drawing from studies on animal theory, biology, ethology, philosophy, anthropology and literature, each participant presents their own take on locating the human and other animals within worlds that we have come to call ‘nature’ and ‘culture’.


Part 1: presentations by Lynn Turner, Rosemarie McGoldrick, Filipa Ramos (remotely), and Melanie Jackson


Part 2: screening of moving image work by

Alexandra Anikina


Matthew Beach


Jenny Brady


Laura Cooper


Carl Gent


Dawn Gaietto


Olga Koroleva


Gui Pondé


Sonia Levy (still, project description here)


Jennet Thomas (trailer)


Part 3: live performances by Laurie RobinsHermione Spriggs and Laura Cooper (collaborating as Anthropology of Other Animals), Matterlurgy (Helena Hunter and Mark Peter Wright), and Robbie Judkins.


Showing throughout the day: moving image work Elisa Noguera Lopez


new sculptural commission by Valinia Svoronou(click on the image for link to work, photo by Nat Urazmetova)


Event review by Anna Ricciardi

'Setting an ambitious precedent for future incarnations, The Political Animal’s presentation of lectures, film screenings and live performance reflected a longer process of collaborative working-throughs to have emerged from the peer-led reading group of the same name.

Our attentions were turned to the iterative and performative power of language early on in The Political Animal, with lectures and readings by Melanie Jackson, Filipa Ramos, Rosemarie McGoldrick and Lynn Turner. Often, the rough edges of debate are worn away for having been pitched too broadly for the sake of a public event. Instead, here, the value of incompletion and open-endedness as productive space made sense of a broad spectrum of contributions without the need to dull opportunities for discussion.

After Turner’s thorough exploration of Kornél Mundruczó’s 2015 film in the paper, In lieu of conclusion: the ends of sacrifice in White God, there was a moment of confusion. A question was put to Turner in the Q&A where an audience member, having not heard the film’s crucially important closing dialogue, pressed for clarification. This mishearing emphasised how misinterpretations ask extra of us in times of attention deficit and instant gratification; pause for reconsideration. Hesitation - as examined by Turner - can be a response of generosity as well as of doubt, with actual consequences and possibilities.

In tune with the reading group dynamic and a guiding motif for many of the featured works, Koroleva’s film, with grandfather (which blends an essay by Hélène Cixous with a conversation with the artist’s grandfather), proposes that meaning is always in translation, weighting language, or its generative gaps, with a hope for reconnection despite its apparent limits.

Leaving loose ends to make our own connections and conclusions, films standing out as good cases in point were by Leaving the Crocodile, by Carl Gent, and I ROAM, by Sonia Levy. Though wildly different in style and subject matter, these were two films that appeared to share an interesting sort of pace, like an affinity for or conversation on voice, presence, and the distance of histories.

Likewise, in Gui Pondé’s Black Jaguar, where a black jaguar recounts his first experiences in London but turns out not to quite who we/ they(?) think they are. There’s some correlation between this human-animal identity crisis and Jennet Thomas’ anarchic Animal Condensed>Animal Expanded #1, where meaning is displaced in the radical disintegration of the nature/ culture divide, a new frontier primed for revolution rather than resolution.'


Photographs of the event by Nat Urazmetova (link)


DUBLIN EXCHANGE On 19-21 November four members of The Political Animal reading group from London visited Dublin to meet with the sister group members there. The reading was set by the Dublin group and the discussion took place at The Hide Project, a 'permanent functional monument' and a functioning hide for bird observation developed by artist Garrett Phelan fascilitated by Caroline Cowley, Dublin Arts Coordinator for Fingal County Council.

This session was attended by Laurie Robins, Hermione Spriggs, Natascha Nanji and Olga Koroleva from London, and Myles Nolan, Catherine Barragry, Jennie Taylor, Lily Cahill, and Jessica Conway on the Dublin side.

Having The Political Animal London group come visit us in Dublin was a valuable experience. Meeting for a combined reading gave us a chance to engage in discussion and was an opportunity for the two groups to get to know each other.

Hosting our sister animal group also provoked us into having the reading at a different venue. The Hide Sculpture, a project by artist Garrett Phelan, was an exciting place to meet, embodying some of the ideas that have come up in previous discussions. The sculpture, the project, the birds and landscape wove their way through our discussion of Karen Barad’s ‘Invertebrate Visions: Diffractions of the Brittlestar’ and Isobel Nolan's ‘Garrett Phelan has seen some remarkable things’. It was also great to have Garrett take part in the conversation and bring aspects of The Hide Project into the discussion.

Hosting the London animals has opened the possibility for further exchanges and strengthened our relationship, making it easier to share material and ideas between the groups. We hope to visit London at some point and welcome the London animals back to Dublin anytime! - Jessica Conway

The visit by the London based reading group The Political Animal was to be centred around a meeting of the two reading groups. On the suggestion of Catherine Barragry this took place in THE HIDE SCULPTURE, a permanent installation by Irish artist Garrett Phelan, courtesy of the artist who was present and Fingal County Council who commissioned the work and manage the site. This was a unique opportunity to meet the London Group at a venue that sits on the interface of themes that run persistently through The Political Animal discussions. Situated on a landfill THE HIDE SCULPTURE looks out onto an estuarial nature reserve, occupying a space between the buried debris of human culture and a natural landscape that human culture now feels a need or obligation to protect.

Nolan’s notes on Phelan’s visionary ‘moments’ across the years of his watching birds beside Barad’s account of an eye-studded brittle-star allowed the discussion to focus largely on the adequacy or inadequacy of how we investigate, represent and think about animals. Are scientific approaches limiting in the way they observe animals? Without the investigations of the brittle-star’s ocular apparatus Barad could not have written her text but does the loss of more traditional ways of thinking about animals and how we involve with them deaden our sympathetic awareness? How do we think about a natural world (which we don’t necessarily feel part of) and about the animals whose consciousedness (sic) in that world we have difficulty appreciating?

The visit by the London group stimulated the visit to the HIDE and gave participants the chance to get a little lost in a thought filled space. - Myles Nolan


THANK YOU The Showroom team who helped make this event possible: Emily Pethick, Eva Rowson, Natasha Tebbs, Louise Shelley, Charlotte Nourse and gallery assistants on the day Becky Buckman, Josh Wright and Simon Clear; Reynir Hutber (video documentation), Nat Urazmetova (photography), Jonathan Trayner (AV tech), Anna Ricciardi (review), and all participating artists and speakers; Catherine Barragry, Garrett Phelan, Caroline Cowley and The Political Animal reading group memebers for organising and attending the visit to The Hide Project, Dublin.

The Political Animal event was supported by Arts Council England Grants for the Arts, and The Showroom
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