My Monster celebrates the 200th anniversary year of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein and the enduring fascination with the human animal hybrid.
Given the current biotechnological breakthroughs in creating human animal hybrids, we may be standing on the cusp of change when it comes to our species. The time has come to ask what a hybrid future might look like for both humans and animals.
Mary Shelley’s seminal monster novel Frankenstein explores life and death and reanimating flesh. It is also the story of a species outcast, for Frankenstein’s creature was made as a hybrid combining both human and animal parts.
Mythology and fiction have long entertained the fantasy of the animal and human fused into one being, and the metaphorical hybrid is embedded in mythology and folklore. The hybrids that appear in art can be whimsical, alluring, and confrontational. While hybrids shock and jolt with their appearance, they also offer an unsettling recognition of the disquieting unease we all feel about our place in the world.
Hybrids are the ultimate metaphor for the outsider. Their very existence is a political act, an affront. Like monsters of old, they are harbingers of a future we may not like, but are intent on creating through each twist and tweak of our species through biotechnology.
Our fear of hybrids stems from the historic view that such creatures are unnatural and monstrous and should not exist. This revulsion is extended to Frankenstein’s ‘hideous creature’ manufactured by science. In an era of the growing acceptance of transgender people, perhaps one of the last binaries to overcome is that of species purity.
The desire to preserve distinct categories for animals and humans can be traced back to the Middle Ages. Humanity’s perceived uniqueness and dominance over the natural world was defined by its separation from the animal, and still lingers. Witness our current obsession with body hair removal.
The trouble with hybrids is that they disturb our moral compass, reminding us that we are animals, and animals are like us. This is the power of the hybrid creature. When we look into its human eyes, we see ourselves looking back from the animal body we deny we inhabit.
Artists including Jane Alexander (South Africa), Rose Agnew, Janet Beckhouse, Peter Booth, Jazmina Cininas, Kate Clark (USA), Catherine Clover, Beth Croce, Julia deVille, Heri Dono (ID), Peter Ellis, Rona Green, Moira Finucane, Rayner Hoff, Ronnie van Hout, Sam Jinks, Deborah Kelly, Bharti Kher (IND), Deborah Klein, Oleg Kulik (Ukraine / Russia), Sam Leach, Norman Lindsay, Sidney Nolan, Eko Nugroho (ID), Patricia Piccinini, Kira O’Reilly & Jennifer Willet (Ireland / Canada), Lisa Roet, Geoffrey Ricardo, Mithu Sen (IND), Maja Smrekar (Slovenia), Ronnie Van Hout, (((20hz)))
Curator Evelyn Tsitas