Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Connie Morey " ba_ble" by Philip Willey

ba_ble  - inarticulations on human - animal relations

Small Bird Trap

Mouth Stuffed

What exactly is our relationship with animals? We use them for work and research, we eat them and we keep them as pets. They are what connects us to the natural world. With our more developed brains we consider ourselves superior, as if we have a higher purpose than  mere existence. Unlike animals we use complex language, we build cathedrals, we journey to the moon, we go shopping and watch Dancing With The Stars. Our intellects allow us to be objective about our situation, but they put us at one remove. We are natural beings but we are separate. 

Connie Morey wonders about this separation. She is an artist, writer and teacher currently doing doctoral research at University of Victoria. Her research focuses on ‘the ecological foundations of imagination and is inspired by the writings of West Coast philosopher and poet Jan Zwicky’. Ba_ble, the show’s title is deliberately imprecise. Articulation is part of the quest.

She approaches the problem from various directions using different media. There is a chest of drawers containing vaguely defined biomorphic shapes. Bird traps that both ensnare and nurture. A painting of a boy and his dog reduced to sub-atomic particles lost in the cosmos. Bird imprints in clay that may be flying or fossilized and a series of serene heads with their mouths stuffed full of fur. It all has to do with language and  human/animal relations but the interpretations are as varied as the viewers. Morey clearly wants us to see the complexity of  the problem, We have to supply our own absolutes. 

This combination of  paintings, sculptural forms and conceptual pieces all fit together nicely and suggest an extended consideration from  more than just one angle. Morey is clearly open to varied interpretations. Morey also wonders if the same rules and criteria apply to different human cultures. It’s a valid question. And a vast subject with broad  implications. Morey is not the first to tackle it.
It is always dangerous to generalize about cultural differences. We live in a global system now, cultural differences have become blurred. Can we say that we in the first world are kinder to animals? Yes, we love our pets, but thousands of animals are slaughtered daily behind abattoir walls where we can’t see the reality. It’s as if the meat just magically appears in the supermarket display cases. Perhaps third world markets where it’s possible to watch cattle, sheep and pigs having their throats slit are more honest and  natural? Do we tend to romanticize indigenous cultures? Who are we to say some people shouldn’t eat monkeys, dogs and guinea pigs?

Nurture or nature? Structure or agency? Alien intervention or natural selection? Without getting too Darwinian about it we have evolved into highly sophisticated creatures. But our bodies still demand sustenance. Vegans would probably disagree but the truth is we kill to live even if we’re only squishing slugs and aphids to protect our vegetables. There is an argument that nature itself is cruel and uncaring. As if that somehow justifies ritual acts of cruelty like bullfighting or using puppies for shark-bait. But what about people who enjoy hunting and fishing? Are they cruel? How much responsibility do we, as the dominant species, have to care for other creatures? And not just the cute cuddly ones.

In her show at Xchanges Morey explores these questions and  tries to resolve them. The work is stimulating and thought-provoking. There is nothing intentionally shocking. There is no overt existential crisis; no tormented forms writhing like raw meat. She makes her point subtly. (The only piece that might be considered potentially disturbing is ‘Mouth Stuffed Full’. But even that has nothing accusatory about it.) We feel absolved. But the mystery remains. Maybe she has only touched the surface but she has succeeded in reducing it to aesthetically pleasing equations for us to ponder.

Philip Willey 

Xchanges Gallery 

Exhibition runs through Sunday, February 24th, 2013
Gallery Hours: Saturdays and Sundays, 12 to 4 pm


  1. i don't think people should eat my dog, that's for sure. also i wish you weren't squishing slugs. they're beautiful and they belong. i usually just move them far away from my garden...into the neighbours yard or something. :)

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  3. Ah so that's where all the deroceras reticulatum are coming from. Would you like to come and take them back? We would like a few peas this year.

  4. actually i don't even try to grow veggies where i am because the slug population is rampant. we grew cabbages in pots one year...we had to rig up a platform in a tree just to keep the slugs away! i've even had slugs come into the house and eat my house plants...true story. so i guess i have just surrendered to the power of the slug and have learned to love them and to love the lacy foliage on my hostas too.

  5. Love is not a word I would use when it comes to slugs. Except for Banana slugs of course which are adorable and prefer forest floors anyway. One strives for peaceful co-existence with the peskier varieties whilst discouraging them with slug bait.