In Remembrance of Animals

In 2011 I held a solo exhibition titled ‘In Remembrance of Animals' at Pop Gallery in Brisbane. The main work of the exhibition was in the style of a traditional memorial, paying respect to all the animals whose lives had been lost due to the human consumption of meat, the sport of hunting, mass-extinction and also the more sentimental loss of family pets. The main artwork in this exhibition included eight hundred drawings of different animals, with particular emphasis on the animals typically considered as livestock; chickens, cows, pigs and sheep, installed erratically on the wall. The drawings were made onto a variety of different found and often discarded papers. At the foot of the work sat an array of collected photographs, heartfelt letters, cards, flowers and wreaths. The audience was invited to bring along their own objects of respect to add to the memorial. The entire exhibition was lit by candlelight. It gave viewers a chance to pay their respects to the animals that have fed them and the animals they have loved. The work encouraged a very direct and personalised audience response while casting attention to broader animal rights concerns. Viewers spoke to me of the intimacy and sadness they felt while looking at the work and it did indeed make them think, for quite some time afterwards, about the way in which they see and relate to animals within their lives.

The exhibition was opened by former Democrats senator Andrew Bartlett. Bartlett, for many years, has actively fought for the rights of refugees, indigenous Australians, equal marriage and for animal welfare. I have long been a follower of his career and objectives. Bartlett has been vital in legislation relating to animal welfare and of particular note has been demonstrative in the writing and publication of the book ‘Animal Law in Australasia’ (2009). Bartlett’s talk at the opening of ‘In Remembrance of Animals’was engaging to not only those who came to hear him speak but also for art patrons who may not have been particularly aware of the intricacies involving the current issues in which he was engaged in, primarily the anti-whaling campaign and the live animal export debate. An interesting point that he made was in regards to: “the strong opposition to whaling, people see it as barbaric and appalling even though we were only doing it a generation or two ago.” This was in response to the way people view vegetarianism as a fringe trend, although attitudes can and do shift quite dramatically once the trigger, such as widespread awareness of animal treatment within the meat industry, has been found. Bartlett not only spoke about his own passion for the animal liberation movement but also spoke quite sensitively about his response to the exhibition and the art world as a whole: "I think this type of work is important not just from someone that is engaged in politics but in pushing for social change and changes in understanding. I’ve been to quite a few conferences over the years looking at animal rights, animal law, treatment of animals, farming... and I’ve noticed that quite a few of these events, alongside the dry lectures, there are sessions about the way animals are reflected in our culture, in art and in different ways across the world. The first time I saw that I thought 'well that seems a bit weird, we’re talking about how to change the world not looking at pictures', but very quickly realised, in being exposed to that, just how many ways that can assist to shift people’s attitudes and challenge people’s ideas much more effectively than just giving people a ranting lecture.' Art has the ability to change people’s minds, not by yelling at them, but by simply giving them another way to think about things. Regarding the more sentimental nature of the exhibition, Bartlett said: "Another aspect that has come to me when looking at Angela’s work is the relationship we have with animals on a more one on one level, the relationships we have with family pets. Quite genuinely, people’s deepest, strongest most meaningful relationships are with animals."

-In Remembrance of Animals exhibition, POP Gallery,