Human animal hybrid exhibition explores an enduring fascination

The fantasy of merging animals and humans into one hybrid creature is explored in 'My Monster: The Human Animal Hybrid' at RMIT Gallery from 29 June to 18 August.

Kate Clark, Gallant, 2016 – Fallow deer hide, antlers, clay, foam, thread, pins, rubber eyes, wire, dimensions variable. Image courtesy of the artist.

The exhibition examines the artistic representation of the human–animal hybrid from mythology to movies; taxidermy to biotechnology; and painting and photography to multi-sensory immersive sound installations

The exhibition coincides with the 200 year anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which gave rise to the portrayal of the mad scientist and outcast hybrid made from human and animal parts.

The desire to merge human and animal into one creature has fascinated artists for 40,000 years, with the hybrid constantly updated and reinvented from century to century – from Greek classical myths and European folktales through to fairytales, stories of werewolves and vampires and popular culture.

Curator Dr Evelyn Tsitas, who based the exhibition on her widely published PhD, said the exhibition playfully and provocatively examined the role the human–animal hybrid has played in the human imagination.

“What visual artists can do so powerfully is simultaneously take the viewer into the conflicted and internal world of the hybrid, while at the same time giving a face and identity to the hybrid within the physical but imaginary world,” Tsitas said.

“A single artwork can literally replace thousands of words of written text or pages of academic references.”

The 35 Australian and international artists represented in the exhibition use the hybrid as a varied and powerful metaphor, exploring our complex relationship with maternity and domesticity; segregation and alienation; and fractured relationships with the natural environment and other animals, as well as struggles with our public and private personas.

My Monster features:

  • Photo montages by Jane Alexander, one of South Africa’s most highly regarded artists.
  • A large hybrid sculpture by renowned New York artist Kate Clark, who uses taxidermy to create animal bodies with human faces, cavorting across a vast expanse of faux grass.
  • Sam Jinks’ enormous, hyper-real Medusa, with a hair of writhing snakes which is as intimidating as the stories about her from Greek mythology.
  • Controversial work by Slovenian artist and winner of the prestigious 2017 Ars Electronica Award for Hybrid Art, Maja Smrekar, where she examines the possibility of human animal hybrids in mothering futures in the K-9_topology project.
  • A confronting photograph by Oleg Kulik together with a bronze sculpture by Rayner Hoff.
  • Works by Norman Lindsay and Sidney Nolan that examine the erotic aspects of the human–animal hybrid that has long intrigued artists.

“The trouble with hybrids is that they disturb our moral compass, reminding us that we are animals, and animals are like us,” Tsitas said.

“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.”

My Monster: The Human Animal Hybrid runs from 29 June to 18 August at the RMIT Gallery – 344 Swanston St, Melbourne.

Parts of the exhibition contain adult themes, which some visitors may find confronting.

Story: Aeden Ratcliffe and Evelyn Tsitas

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