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Daniel Lee, CIRCUS, 2010

— Oct 5, 2018 by Laetitia Wilson

Large circus dancers

The hybridisation of human and animal has a long lineage throughout mythology, art history and history – with colonial historical narratives othering people from so called strange and distant lands as part animal. The animal in relation to the human has played a strong allegorical and symbolic function and become symbolic of the unknown, the alien and the primitive. In the current era, human and animal mergings are more explicitly considered and enacted as experiments of bio-technologies and technoscience. The hybridization is not just a surface phenomena, it is not a brute stitching of fleshy materials, it occurs at the micro level of DNA. As Donna Haraway wrote in the Cyborg Manifesto, “communications technologies and biotechnologies are the crucial tools for recrafting our bodies.” This is not solely human, but also animal and technological bodies.

Daniel Lee engages with these ideas, as well as ideas of evolution in his practice of digitally creating strange and uncanny creatures; creatures of the night, creatures of the underbelly, freaks that belong in the circus. The subtle morphing of human facial features into animal features combines with a more explicit digital stitching of human faces onto animal bodies.

Lee collapses the boundaries between human and animal in ways that evoke thoughts about genetics and new technologies in our contemporary world. Within all of his works, there is also interest in bringing us closer to animals at the genetic level, a reminder of our own animal heritage, our own creaturely characteristics, our hidden and denied animal nature and the very real fuzzy and Frankensteinian boundaries between the human and the non-human.

In response to the Circus series of digitally manipulated photographs, Lee writes that:

“Humans have shared the earth with other animals since the dawn of our existence. Over time we have become inter-dependent with many of our fellow creatures, sharing our lives, our labors, our play and our travels.

The wonderful strangeness of the Circus reveals this symbiotic relationship at its most extreme, where animals perform like people; people perform like animals and audiences retreated into children.”

The circus as the world upside down, the carnivalesque, presents a stage upon which inversions are normalised and celebrated. For Lee this becomes a way to more deeply engage with the strangeness of the current era.

“The curtain is up. Welcome to CIRCUS.”
The hybridisation of human and animal has a long lineage throughout mythology, art history and history – with colonial historical narratives othering people from so called strange and distant lands as part animal. The animal in relation to the human has played a strong allegorical and symbolic function and become symbolic of the unknown, the alien and the primitive. In the current era, human and animal mergings are more explicitly considered and enacted as experiments of bio-technologies and technoscience. The hybridization is not just a surface phenomena, it is not a brute stitching of fleshy materials, it occurs at the micro level of DNA. As Donna Haraway wrote in the Cyborg Manifesto, “communications technologies and biotechnologies are the crucial tools for recrafting our bodies.” This is not solely human, but also animal and technological bodies.

Daniel Lee engages with these ideas, as well as ideas of evolution in his practice of digitally creating strange and uncanny creatures; creatures of the night, creatures of the underbelly, freaks that belong in the circus. The subtle morphing of human facial features into animal features combines with a more explicit digital stitching of human faces onto animal bodies.

Lee collapses the boundaries between human and animal in ways that evoke thoughts about genetics and new technologies in our contemporary world. Within all of his works, there is also interest in bringing us closer to animals at the genetic level, a reminder of our own animal heritage, our own creaturely characteristics, our hidden and denied animal nature and the very real fuzzy and Frankensteinian boundaries between the human and the non-human.

In response to the Circus series of digitally manipulated photographs, Lee writes that:

“Humans have shared the earth with other animals since the dawn of our existence. Over time we have become inter-dependent with many of our fellow creatures, sharing our lives, our labors, our play and our travels.

The wonderful strangeness of the Circus reveals this symbiotic relationship at its most extreme, where animals perform like people; people perform like animals and audiences retreated into children.”

The circus as the world upside down, the carnivalesque, presents a stage upon which inversions are normalised and celebrated. For Lee this becomes a way to more deeply engage with the strangeness of the current era.

“The curtain is up. Welcome to CIRCUS.”

1.Lee, Daniel, Artist Statement: Circus, correspondence with the artist, 13/5/2018
2.Ibid.

HyperPrometheus
Exhibition Date: 20 October - 23 December, 2018
Venue: Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts in Australia
Partnership: SymbioticA, University of Western Australia (UWA)
Curator: Oron Catts, Laetitia Wilson, Eugenio Viola