Wildlife: Queer Zoology
Humboldt Magnussen invites us into “Wildlife: Queer Zoology” by asking that we don animal masks he has painstakingly silkscreened. Caribou, Penguin, Walrus, and Giraffe – the masks suggest we adopt new animal identities for the opening evening, adorn ourselves with new costumes that challenge the boundaries of nature and culture.
The show questions the rhetoric of queer sexuality’s natural- (or unnatural-)ness. Responding to right-wing-evangelical claims that queer sexualities and non-gender-conforming identities are unnatural, Magnussen’s exhibition features the work of seven artists who challenge this notion.
Alexis Boyle’s coil of rope snakes refers to recent research finding that male snakes which emit both male and female hormones are seen the most desirable mates, attracting frenzied attention resulting in a tangled “mating ball.” This finding suggests that long-held ideas about sexuality among animals are perhaps more politically convenient than accurate. Boyle’s work reexamines queerness in both animal and human worlds by emphasizing the degree to which the gender binary is constructed by social norms, rather than hard science.
Gustavo Cerquera Benjumea’s tongue-in-cheek sculpture plays the part of a good-luck charm (a dried llama fetus), designed to protect Videofag from homophobia and transphobia. A certificate of authenticity purportedly from the Bolivian and Columbian embassies accompanies it on the wall. Benjumea’s sculpture provides a complex mixing ground for preconceptions about both culture and sexuality, and hints at the magical, rather than strictly scientific, role of the animal.
Danielle Nicole Smith’s high-femme bejeweled works look at the parallel spaces of domesticity and domestication, pairing an image of a kitten captioned “Lady Love,” aside a sparkly text collage spelling out her girlfriend’s affectionate nickname. Meanwhile, Corinne Teed’s labourious drawing and collage works represent ambiguous human and animal sexual behaviours. In Negotiations, Teed fills the necks of two deer, antlers entangled, with images of women wrestling in the nude. The work manifests a tension between violence and tenderness, competition and play, sex and dominance.
Michael Rennick’s work refers to queer use of animal metaphor, with careful and precious paintings of individual animals (wolf, pig, otter, and bear) on underwear which has been subsequently ripped up by his dog. Mary Tremonte’s silkscreened hankies serve a similar function, charting queer self-identifying gestures through the language of the animal kingdom. Her serigraph prints document instances of queerness in the animal world, and include the story of Roy and Silo, two male chinstrap penguins at the Central Park Zoo who nested together in 1998, first caring for an egg-shaped rock, and finally hatching an adoptive egg. Together, the works in the show highlight the ecologies of queerness, and present scientific and inventive potential for worlds of human and animal identity not bound by dichotomy.