Animal Kingdom, The Russian Pavilion at 48 La Biennale di Venezia, Venice, 1999 (another edition exhibited)
Our Moscow through the Eyes of Mikki is part of their project Collaboration with Animals, which started in 1978 with a drawing with a dog Tranda. In 1995 it took them to a zoo in Dayton, Ohio, where they painted with elephant Renee, and in 1997 the duo founded three ‘Komar Melamid Art Academies for Elephants’ in Thailand, providing an extra source of revenue for their keepers who sold their paintings to tourists. Playing on the notions of art and its value, the artists question the superiority of the human race in general and the relevance and exclusivity of the artistic talent in particular.
In the presented lot, Komar and Melamid taught a chimpanzee to take photographs. Mikki was a popular performer at the Moscow Circus. He was 15 when the artists first taught him to take photos with a Polaroid, and then by a regular analog and an antique camera. The blurry snapshots of Red Square taken by Mikki present a new perspective akin to experimental photography and reference millions of photos taken by tourists on a daily basis.
Concluding that they ‘..not only teach animals, but learn from them as well’, the artists add another dimension to the idea of Relational Aesthetics. Their work goes beyond the ideas of interactions and interrelationships with the viewers, and into the realm of other species. Mocking authorship and revered artistry, be it in painting or photography, their project raises awareness of other inhabitants of our planet.
Slides and reprints of Mikki's training and the artists’ collaboration were made by photographer Peter Degterev. They document and supplement original photographs made by Mikki. In 1999 the work was presented at the 48th Venice Biennale as part of the Russian Pavilion.
Komar & Melamid quoted in d’APERTutto: 48. Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte, Venice, 1999, p. 167
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