I have always loved her work, but HOW did I not know about Animalerie until today?! Must immediately buy this book.
I once carried with me for about two days a newly born mouse that I had stumbled upon … I kept him nestled in my bra, taking him out every two hours, filling his translucent tummy white with a single drop of goat’s milk … helping him poop, then gently washing his delicate little bottom.
I was caught in this most desperate place … me, clinging onto his life … every yawn, every stretch … a very special, a very unstable place.
When he was gone, I found that in an instant, I was out of that place … he was no longer that beautiful little baby whose every gesture made me smile deep inside. Just like that, he was a pink blob of bubble gum.
During the three years of shooting Animalerie, I was in that same desperate place. I purposefully sought out small pet shops all over the United States and Europe … actually drawn by them. To enter … was for me … this same fleeting glance … this same chance to connect to something very special yet wrong. There, over and over, side by side, I was shown the boiled down rue of life … adorned with complete neuroses repeated to a perfection … That … or just a numbed dormant death.
I chose not to show the endless forgotten bloated dead bodies … the sick left dying … The frightened-eyed fish sucked next to and stuck on the tank’s water filtration system, its body overlapping another already lifeless tank mate … The frenzy when baby mice were picked from their warm soft nest and dropped in the adjacent tank of a hungry snake, or carnivorous lizard … The awkward stretching and silent searching of the blind pink newborn’s body, the reptile’s forked red tongue sent into a wild flicking frenzy, lapping up molecules of fresh live scent … Or the frantic searching mother, and sometimes father, of the pinkies and fuzzies, forever in a state of confusion over their continuously, mysteriously, disappearing pups … Not those endless never-changing stories.
At first, the photographs were all made to include bits of visual information showing their containers … Then one day I found, with the exact intensity with which I looked, I was being looked at. Locked in this meeting, I then began to see. I was taken and shown a very special place, a world in between worlds, but a place that remains, just the same. This was a place where living, breathing, looking objects—inventory, toys, titillations, obsessions, birthday gifts, and specimens … blobs of bubble gum—managed to live, undaunted, and go about some form of life’s daily rituals … altered and unnatural, yet still possessing all its passion … filled with beauty, heightened by grace … sublime in their fleeting existence. There, I found beautiful treasures, not disposable trifles.
Source: Joseph Bellows Gallery