The Lives of Animals

‘The Lives of Animals’ is a group exhibition at M HKA that looks at the subject of animals from the perspective of the visual arts.

We all know many stories about animals; they are part of our collective imagination. Since our childhood, we have spent time observing animals in various situations. Many of us have also formed personal opinions about them. Animals are probably among the most popular and, at the same time, the most complex subjects to have accompanied us since our species emerged.

The exhibition asks the fundamental question about what an animal is and whether humans can be friends with animals. Participating artists critically examine the attitudes of ‘human exceptionalism’, stemming from the belief that animals do not understand the concept of death or have a sense of the future.

The title of the exhibition refers to the fictocritical novel by J.M. Coetzee, The Lives of Animals (1999). The text is an unusual and polemic form of philosophical dialogue, in which two lectures given by the main fictional character, the literary scholar Elisabeth Costello, are interwoven with the narrative plot. Empathy and kindness, spoken of by Costello, become the starting point for the present exhibition, blending literature, philosophy, ethics and the visual arts. Also, the work of artist Lin May Saeed (1973–2023), who examines transcultural, complex relationships between humans and animals, is an important reference for the exhibition. Can we, and under what circumstances, adopt an animal perspective?

Curated by Joanna Zielińska.

Artists: Noor Abuarafeh, Antonia Baehr (together with Dodo Heidenreich, Nanna Heidenreich, Mirjam Junker, Itamar Lerner, Catriona Shaw, Ida Wilde, Steffi Weismann), Yevgenia Belorusets, Pierre Bismuth, melanie bonajo, Elen Braga, Sue Coe, Simone Forti, Nicolás García Uriburu, Piero Gilardi, Golden Snail Opera Collective (Isabelle Carbonell, Joelle Chevrier, Yen-Ling Tsai, Anna Tsing), Rebecca Horn, Katarzyna Krakowiak, K.P. Krishnakumar, Luís Lázaro Matos, Laura Lima, Anne Marie Maes, Dafna Maimon, Britta Marakatt-Labba, Ad Minoliti, Jean Painlevé, Charlemagne Palestine, Panamarenko, Rosana Paulino, Janis Rafa, Lin May Saeed, Tomás Saraceno, Carolee Schneemann, Filip Van Dingenen, and Aleksandra Waliszewska.

Sonic Room: Izabela Dłużyk, Nathan Gray, Jonáš Gruska, Kathy High (together with Michelle Temple, Matt Wellins), Anne Marie Maes,Jean-Claude Roché, Tomás Saraceno, and Lisa Schonberg, among others.

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Lin May Saeed, Arrival of Animals (dedicated to E. Canetti), 2008. Photo: Studio Lin May Saeed. Courtesy Estate Lin May Saeed, Jacky Strenz, Frankfurt/Main

A version of this project will be presented at Salt in Istanbul in 2025.

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