BRIAN CATLING (IN COLLABORATION WITH DAVID TOLLEY) – ZOOED
Brian Catling was born in 1948 in London. He is a poet, sculptor and performance
artist, concentrating mainly on video and live work. He lives and works in Oxford
as a professor at the Ruskin School of Drawing & Fine Art and is also on the academic
staff at Linacre College, a graduate college.
The strangest thing about zoos is the astonishing range of creatures existing in
them. The variation of bodily form, sizes and behavioural differences are amazing.
From shy creatures occupying remote corners to loud tumultuous hordes claiming centre
stage and performing for either their own or the spectators' attention – it's not
always clear which. Feeding time produces the most bizarre and sometimes grotesque
sights. Some of the birds squabble and screech over the food troughs, striving for
the best places there, others suddenly flee to nearby trees whilst others again,
with every impression of lethargy, fly away from the trees.
And the visitors? In spite of the incredible number of wild and dangerous animals
nearby we stroll unconcerned along the paths between the compound and the cages.
The sublime universe of nature is extremely close but we do not have a sense of peril.
We are interested to see what is around us and at the same time enjoy the frisson
from the knowledge that at least a theoretical danger does exist. It is those moments
of assumed privacy in which the animals wash, delouse and scratch themselves and
sometimes each other which arouse the greatest degree of interests on the part of
the visitors. It is the undisguised animalistic behaviour which entertains and amuses
us. Hilarity is the order of the day when a lion leaps with a lust to kill at what
must seem to be a choice morsel (even a child!) presented on a plate – only to find
itself restrained by the bars of the cage.
With Brian Catling we are confronted in Halle Zoo by the authentic beast itself.
The artist is an animal which never existed. He is the visitor who puts the animal
in the shade; he is the human being whose animalistic ambitions add a new component
to the zoo.