Due to Covid-19, many patterns have changed in our lives. The lockdowns in city centres—and the attendant quiet on normally busy streets—have created an unprecedented chance for urban animals to roam. Throughout the world, cities continue to spread out into the natural landscape, continuing to destroying ecosystems and habitats, while technology reshapes our existence. As a result, we’re seeing more animals moving into the urban core, mass extinction, and other animals determined not to give up their territories. As thoughts about viruses and disease transmission occupied my mind during the pandemic, I found myself thinking about how we share space with urban animals, and the fears urbanites have about animal-to-human disease transmission. Zoonosis is a disease which can be transmitted from animals to humans and occurs when species live in close physical contact. Bacteria and viruses frequently transfer genes between organisms and species boundaries, and humans, plants, and animals are made up of cells that learned to cooperate long ago in order to increase their survival. In this work, I ask: Is our species fixed and immutable or is dynamic, and ever-changing? Is the distortion and transgression of boundaries grotesque, funny, or frightening?
The oil painting Zoonetics is inspired by Pandemic Sculpture Garden, a series of sculptures I created during months of isolation knitting together human hair and remnants found in my urban garden. This work is an iteration of an animal-human sympoiesis related to infectious disease, interspecies relations, cohabitation, and co-evolutionary transformation – including the appearance of new bodies, organs and species. My work is framed in a vintage resin frame that once housed a mirror, and acts as a reflection of the times, and also as a reflection of being framed in an ongoing colonial narrative with a plastic kitsch gold gilded frame reminiscent of the ‘Gilded Age’ of the 1800s.
The sculpture Contagion combines thoughts about hand washing, viruses that live on protective gear, fear of touching surfaces, and infectious disease transmission from nonhuman animal-to-human, and DNA transmutation. Blue nitrile gloves are also a source of global litter due to the pandemic.