Meet the Comrats

Site specific or site responsive art is concerned with practises that, in some way or another, formulate an exchange between the work of art and the place that defines its meaning. If we recognize that utterances, actions and events are affected by the situation and place in which they occurred – what we may call their ‘local position’ – then one can argue for the hypothesis that a work of art is no different, and therefore defined through its properties, qualities and meanings specifically in relationship to its locality.

At the conception of a site specific university project which was implemented in 2016, I set out to search for a space around campus that could trigger some interesting ideas. Hours were spent looking for a number of potential sites, but the decision was made so easily once the place I eventually worked with was identified as a prospect – I was just so sure of it. It was one that had called out to my attention in the past, without knowing that there would be a future opportunity to work around it.

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I wanted to work with the sites that held pest control boxes that were strategically placed in order to reduce the number of rats by slowly killing them off with poison. Initially, a number of these sites where chosen, however given the time frame and logistics of the project, the proposal was eventually narrowed to focus on one site in particular.

I set out by drawing lots and lots of rats in positions of power, contest and ready to declare war against the humans responsible for the deaths of their ‘comrats’. Yes, George Orwell was a source of inspiration, and the installations title is a tribute to some of his great work. People came close and smiled as they saw me drawing many rats at the cafes I like to work in, whilst others asked plenty of questions as they saw me model and cast an even larger amount of rats on campus. I soon became known as ‘that girl who’s working on the rats’ – a nickname which introduced me to a lot of acquaintances. It was nice to see that the project became exciting not only for me, and my motivation was amplified by the stimulating environment I found myself working in.

The process was really exciting, and slightly challenging too. There was a lot to learn about liquid latex and casting in concrete. I was instantly drawn to the idea of casting the rats in concrete; apart from being a durable material, I thought the colour and texture of concrete would be very fitting for my Comrats.

When designing the site responsive sculpture, I wanted the rats to make people smile before taking a moment to ponder about the cruel ways in which we deal with these animals. It became clear to me that in order to get people to feel empathy for the rats, I had to give them enough human characteristics so that they could relate to them, yet not enough to make them look like caricatures parodying the situation.

The idea behind this project was mainly about the way humans assume authority over other beings in this world. The thought of feeding a rat to cause internal bleeding followed by its death is very disturbing to me, and I feel sorry that a number of these creatures must go through this awful and painful experience for our practical convenience. I am not saying that as wild animals, they do not pose any threat to people and have never brought the plague upon humanity, rather that I feel disappointed by the unethical ways in which we deal with these animals.

That’s all for now. Hope you’ve enjoyed my blog so far, don’t forget to check out the artwork in the slideshow above and find me on Instagram 🙂

Over&Out

Joanna

 

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