Envisioning animals in art

From monkeys on billboards to dogs on TV sitcoms and puppet lemurs entertaining children, images of animals are ubiquitous in contemporary Western culture. We see animal imagery everywhere, but how does this affect the way humans relate to animals in our society? And what does this suggest about human interpretations of wildlife, wilderness and urban animals?

These ideas will be explored through "Envisioning Animals Symposium: Animals in Visual Culture and Contemporary Human-Animal Relations" to be held from Feb. 1 and 2 on York’s Keele campus. The event will provide unique opportunities to investigate how the mediated appreciation of animals can lead to a romanticized understanding of "true" wildlife and wilderness. Highlighting recent work on animal imagery, scholars and creators from around the world will come together to present on topics such as the influence of zoos on human conceptions of animals, museum dioramas as art and representations of elephants.

The interdisciplinary gathering is organized by York Professors Leesa Fawcett of the Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) and Matthew Brower of the Faculty of Fine Arts. "We were inspired by the rich interdisciplinary confluence of ideas between Matt’s work in visual culture and mine in human-animal relations," Fawcett said. "Through this symposium, we hope that knew knowledge will be created and new partnerships and friendships will be developed in this area of animal studies."

The symposium is made possible through the support of the Social Science & Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Humane Society of the United States Animals & Society Course Awards, the Canada Council for the Arts, York’s Office of the Vice-President Academic and the Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation.

  • Thursday February 1, 5 to 7pm
    The Joan and Martin Goldfarb Centre for Fine Arts, Room 312
    Vid Ingelevics, "The Museum of the Hunter/Gatherer"
    Diane Fox, "Constructed Realities: the Diorama as Art"
    Lisa Uddin, "Endangered Civility: Animal Display in the New American Zoo"
  • Friday February 2, 5 to 7pm
    The Joan and Martin Goldfarb Centre for Fine Arts, Room 312
    Nigel Rothfels, "Looking at Elephants"
    Jonathan Burt, "The Aesthetics of Livingness"

For more information visit the Envisioning Animals Symposium Web site.