Humans’ Schizoid View of Animals Exposed in Subversive Art

“In addition to our household cat, I had numerous pets – frogs, lizards, rats, turtles, fish, a rabbit and a family of adorable ducks. My childhood was replete with books about animals, animal toys and images of cute and cuddly animals… There I was, like most children, growing up believing I loved animals yet I was consuming animals daily. Whilst my love of animals was fostered, my taste for animal products was simultaneously cultivated.”

New Zealand-born prizewinning vegan artist Claude Jones describes her childhood – conditioned like every typical child into sustaining two completely contradictory ideas about animals at the same time in one brain. What we now, of course, call cognitive dissonance.

“My work seeks to expose such obvious contradictions in the face of widespread, culturally ingrained acceptance of this schism.”

Her work which appears quite simple, has a lot going on under the surface. She employs a deceptively innocent fairytale style, delicately drawn and in soft colours, as if for kids’ storybooks. The animals she depicts are anthropomorphised just as they so often are in children’s books. But our minds struggle to make sense of what our eyes are telling us – the shocking incongruity of the actions they are engaged in. Rabbits, universally viewed as timid and gentle, are seen wielding knives against other animals. A dog is bullfighting, or acting as circus ringmaster to a performing elephant, or experimenting on a hapless rabbit. Any given animal can appear as either perpetrator or victim. And yet all of them portraying ‘normal’ human activities that are not only legal but culturally acceptable, and accepted.

claude_jones_005

But let Claude continue her story: “For some time [as a child] I could only assume that we ate animals when they had died of old age. … we attempt to compensate for the murder of our fellow sentient beings in bucolic images in stories and animated films of happy, healthy farm animals grazing and sunbathing in lush fields, joyously bounding about, scratching, sniffing the earth, cuddling their human companions, and so on. I soon came to understand the brutal truth and simply could not reconcile my love of animals with harming them, let alone killing them. With plenty of other food options to choose from, at age 16, I decided to become a vegetarian.”

claude_jones_003

“Much later, in 2010, I finally made the connection between all animal products and animal suffering and decided it was time to shift from vegetarianism to veganism.”

Claude-Jones_Bull-terror_2015_mixed-media-on-paper_15x15cm“I find myself simultaneously fascinated and frustrated by our contradictory treatment of animals. Our human-centric perspective of the animal world positions rabbits, for example, as both cuddly companion animals but also as, laboratory specimens, meat and fur “products”. We support an industry that raises millions of pets that are accepted members of families yet trap, cage, torture and kill billions of animals annually for food, fur, leather.  My work seeks to expose such obvious contradictions in the face of widespread, culturally ingrained acceptance of this schism.”Claude-jones_Bullies_2015_mixed-media-on-paper_85x141cm

claude-jones_Show-bully_2014_mixed-media-on-paper_102.5x104cm-2

Claude-Jones_curious-catch_2015_mixed-media-on-paper_15x15cm

Much of Claude’s work reveals her concern about modern science’s meddling with nonhumans. In an earlier post  I wrote about the science of gene-editing, CRISPR. Using CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) humans can now edit the genes of both animals and plants to ‘custom-build’ them in any way considered desirable and/or profitable. So already you can for example, if you have the money, order yourself a designer dog with black and yellow stripes – or brown with red spots – yes really. Maybe the creature Claude depicts here isn’t so very fanciful.

claude_jones_daisy-dog_drawing_15x15cm_2009

Take a look at some of the other bizarre creatures of Claude’s imagination in her Gallery collection, ‘Hybrid”. At one and the same time amusing and nightmarish, I think you’ll agree. But too close to present day scientific reality for comfort.

Fantastical hybrids appear in many world mythologies. The ancient Greeks, for instance, told of the dread Chimaera, a flame-belching monster made of body parts from three different animals. Nowadays the all-too-real ‘chimaeras’ don’t breath fire, but are every bit as monstrous – gene-edited pigs made to grow up with human hearts, ‘harvested’ at the right time to remedy the shortage of human-donated organs for human transplants.

claude_jones_strawberry-jamon_de_limon_drawing_15x15cm_2009

“Jones questions the domination of humankind over all animal life, and our assumed right to meddle with the natural order of other species.”

Simon Gregg, Art Curator

For me Claude’s powerful art epitomises the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. It speaks volumes about Man’s rationally untenable, schizoid relationship with his fellow creatures.

Visit Claude’s website to learn more, and browse through her gallery of disturbing and thought-provoking pictures. There’s a good chance you will feel the need to fix a conflicted mind (and soul, and life), the inevitable result of attempting the impossible: making sense of schizoid presumptions about our fellow animals that are, unhappily, conventional wisdom today.

If that resonates with you, you could do much worse than trying vegan. It’s not hard and the rewards are great. As great as bringing your life into sweeter harmony with Life. I guarantee it.

Related posts

Vegan Artist’s Surreal Vision of Animals & Our Planet

Through Artist’s Eyes – The Wondrous Web of Life & Death

The Serious Intensity of Being in Animal Art

Anger & Beauty – Inspiration for Artist Andrew Tilsley

Save

5 thoughts on “Humans’ Schizoid View of Animals Exposed in Subversive Art

  1. This is an absolutely fascinating article! Thought provoking art.You write such interesting posts. I agree about human incongruities concerning animals. As a child I had a book about a Turkey and couldn’t understand why we ate Turkey for Christmas dinner and cried “poor turkey” throughout.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Moving the fight for animal rights into the field of art is a great idea. Those of us who had to read of the horrors of the slaughterhouse or the research lab or the fur farm discovered the information was amplified by seeing YouTube videos provided by Mercy For Animals, Compassion Over Killing, and PETA with the development of the Internet. Words alone could not convey the extent of the suffering involved in our abuse.

    Jones’s contribution points out the “schizoid” character of our relationship with animals in a way that is not threatening or “graphic,” but it reveals how much of our abuse of animals is part of everyday life and under the radar of conscious thought.

    There is another kind of animal art that is focusing on slaughterhouse evils, for example, Jackson Thilenius’ painting, “NEXT,” which depicts a cow’s eye, and reflected in that eye is a string of shackled cows on the slaughter line. There is the painting of the cow with the slit throat hanging upside down and dripping blood. Or the one of the still living pig standing by the side of his blood-stained and slaughtered companion.

    Probably better known are the drawings of Sue Coe, whose stark images of the doomed animals in the slaughterhouse are truly the stuff of nightmares. The faces of the workers are as threatening and ugly as the jobs they do. They are cogs in the slaughter machine and have turned into moral monstrosities.

    Jones notes she is both “fascinated” and “frustrated” by the contradictions of our treatment of animals, such as rabbits, which can be prized pets, research subjects, and food.

    But the point is that their fate, whatever it is, will be determined by human beings. And our contradictions and dissonance arise from the speciesism that is the foundation of our main institutions–Law and Religion. Bringing animals into existence for the ultimate purpose of killing them for food is called a property right, and selling them for slaughter is called a business. Bludgeoning, stabbing, and slashing them to death in a slaughterhouse is called a job. Those who do the killing are called workers. All the resulting suffering and death is perfectly legal.

    And while Law places animals outside the circle of legal rights, Religion places them beyond moral rights.
    Because an invisible God gave human beings an invisible soul that He withheld from animals, they are deemed inferior and subject to our dominion. Just as slaughterhouse workers can slash and kill with no legal consequences, they can also do so with no moral consequences. And since animals have no invisible soul, they will never be compensated in this world or the next for their suffering. As absurd and irrational as these theological justifications seem, people believe in them and abide by them. Or they know better but the Bible provides a good excuse, one that many people fear to question or contradict.

    Thus reason, justice, and mercy all stop the species barrier. Until we can eliminate that unbridgeable chasm between Us and Them, we will have to deal with the resulting cognitive dissonance. The problem is, that most of humanity does notice anything wrong. We are too enculturated into our sense of supremacy and too dependent on destroying animals for profit and pleasure.

    Hopefully, more art and more videos of the hell we are creating for the other animals on this earth will awaken people and change minds and behavior. But I question whether, as a species, we can actually overcome the psychological and financial investment we have placed in our exceptionalism and the power it has given us. As the simple wisdom of Pogo reminds us, “We are the enemy.” We are the monsters in the slaughterhouse so disturbingly revealed by Sue Coe’s art.

    Like

  3. Thank you.That is an excellent overview. And yes, it’s true, we need nothing short of a complete revolution of our way of thinking, our culture, our economy, our justice system, and our morality. There are people doing amazing work in law, film, art, philosophy and ethics, but we are just chipping away at a colossus. We have no choice but to keep bashing at our chisels.

    I have a draft about Sue Coe – hoping to feature her some time soon😊

    Thanks again. As always you provide a balanced and invaluable context – it is worth my publishing a post just for your much appreciated comments!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s