Artist: Sarah McMenimen
Exhibition title: Digestion Songs
Venue: Species, Atlanta, US
Date: March 19 – 27, 2016
Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Species, Atlanta
In December 2015 the Yorkie Russell Terrier joined our domestic union; The Humane Society named him Dorin, but we call him Caraway, or Mr. Seed, or Lilo, or Little Master, all of which he responds to with a tilted head in recognition of familiar tones in our human voices. The name “Little Master” most accurately describes the power dynamics in our house— as his human companions we are meant to be his co-alphas, but of course we mostly live in his service, as we dote and provide and strain to understand his joys and specificities.
Affection and play are almost common languages, and pretty much everything else is a labor towards interspecies translation that must either be intuitive or interpretive—this is where misinterpretation has an accumulating power and becomes a rogue force in our domestic system. Sarah’s ongoing collaboration with Ume begins here, where misinterpretation and play accumulate in haptic, edible and listenable objects and performances.
Chew Chimes are collages assembled by Sarah and played by Ume, who activates the cobbled-together chimes by tugging at edible chews, which have been strung into the randomized music-making units. Ume’s performances have been captured on video and the chimes exist autonomously with the residue of her activity and dormant possibility. Sarah has also made a pair of socks with yarn spun from a collection of Ume’s shed fur–perhaps another sort of misinterpretation related to doting or shrine-making in a distinctly human way, but still performed in the spirit of reciprocity and care. In each instance of collaboration the conditions of work and play conflate, but the soupy quality of this conflation may be a familiar binder for both authors as it’s common of artist work and canine work alike.
In Digestion Songs, the stutters and drawn breaths from both mis- and understanding are where Sarah and Ume compose their music and literalize their entangled project of being, and perhaps the hiccups specifically generate artworks as disruptive documents of their interspecies partnership.