n De Arte - Actions speak louder than words in 'The Alice Sequence' : a series of exhibitions by Wilma Cruise : research

Volume 2013, Issue 88
  • ISSN : 0004-3389
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The artist Wilma Cruise's exploration of Lewis Carroll's (1865) as an iconic and thematic motif for her recent series of exhibitions, collectively titled 'The Alice Sequence' (2011-2012), presents a theoretically rich exploration of the human/animal dialectic. This article explores key notions of inter-species communication and distinction that arise from Cruise's artistic exploration, also the practice-led component of her doctoral study. I argue that Cruise's interest in this fanciful text stems from the proliferation of distinctive animal characters in Carroll's oeuvre; in particular the credible 'force' of the creatures of Wonderland who, in their fictional veracity, resist (to some extent) a descent into becoming solely allegorical conduits. Carroll's fantastical realm, where humans and animals converse with each other, is fertile ground for an artistic and theoretical contemplation of human and animal cognisant difference (a concept at the core of anthropological distinction). In pursuing this direction I explicate Cruise's extension of Carroll's fictional trope into the Freudian and Lacanian terrain of the preconscious and pre-linguistic modality (Cruise 2012:17-20), which Cruise links to the phenomenon of horse-training methodologies that foreground bodily modes of communication between horses and their human trainers (Cruise 2012:18). The 'bodily register' of écriture féminine is also connected to this theoretical grouping as a repurposed framework for revising notions of human logo-centric supremacy over animal beings. Further theoretical formulations that disregard preconceived conceptions of human and animal capacity, such as Actor Network Theory, are discussed in relation to this premise. Selected artworks from Cruise's 'The Alice Sequence' are analysed in relation to these theoretical paradigms, with the conclusion that Cruise's disarticulated use of text and image enacts the estrangement of logo-centric reason from physical interspecies ontology. This artistic dislodgement of certainty in the prerogative of language to enforce human superiority over non-human beings, places emphasis on the bodily presence of Cruise's sculptural animal figures, in an artistic echo of pre-linguistic modes of communication.

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