Kazakh-Russian artist Aida Emelyanova explores the relationship between humans and animals in her upcoming solo exhibition at London’s Hus Gallery. The show titled “I Do Whatever You Animals Do” is set to immerse the audience in an alternate universe that explores the paradoxes and dilemmas of human existence.
The 13 distinct pieces create a universe where the female body is displayed as an animal, in a bid to answer the question ‘who is more human?’
“In the animal kingdom you can come across some of the most heart-breaking and touching scenes which affect humans to the core,” begins Emelyanova, “I wanted to show that humans can learn so much from animals on humanity and humility. In our hearts we aren’t that different from the animals we hunt.”
To illustrate and share her advocacy for animal rights, Chelsea College graduate, Emelyanova became the protagonist in her story, the producer, the director and the subject. In each piece she transforms into a different animal. We asked her a few questions about her work.
Was it challenging being your own subject and if so why?
The biggest challenge I faced was to bring my vision to life. In my mind I was clear in how I wanted my sets to look and the message I wanted to convey. However, as with all creative processes things change and your ideas develop. At the same time this was part of the reason I wanted to take total control of the whole process. This subject is so important to me that I didn’t want to rely on others. In my previous experience, every person has a different way of seeing things. This is not a negative thing, however, can create confusion and dissatisfaction with the final outcome for those involved and dilute the initial concept.
Being the subject of the collection was extremely important to me, but I knew the process would be challenging. Part of the creative process involves immersing yourself into the world which you are trying to portray. A poignant yet challenging moment for me in this process was when I was styling and photographing ‘Imprisonment’. Closing the door on myself in the cage with a life size taxidermy lion brought home the cruelty of keeping animals trapped in cages. The feeling of claustrophobia and being so close to a life sized lion helped me to develop a greater awareness of the ill-treatment of animals in captivity. In the wild lions would have Great Plains to roam yet we destroy their natural homes.
Using a taxidermy lion also brought with it challenges, as these animals are killed for the sole purpose of human pleasure. Not only in the process of shooting but also display. This adds another dimension to the message of the photograph but also created an internal struggle. I do not agree with the process of taxidermy yet it is necessary for me to incorporate this element into my photography.
What is your fondest memory you have of interacting with an animal?
As a child my parents were not fond of pets, however, every weekend I would visit my grandfather’s stables where I would care for and ride the horses. This is where I first encountered the humility of animals. I saw the horses as my friends rather than animals in captivity where humans decide their fate. I spoke to the animals as I would my friends. They never once betrayed me as I came to find humans do. They listened to me and appeared to understand. It was in the stables as a child that I saw the human qualities of animals.
How has human humility or lack there of, impacted your life and your work?
My work is not about human humility. In my life I have found humans not to be humble, we need to observe animals and learn humility from them. Throughout my professional career and personal life, I have encountered more human cruelty than humility. I have been criticised, judged and objectified by both men and women. As my collection shows, this has greatly impacted my work. I am showing the flipside, wild animals that we humans are quick to label dangerous or unintelligent are actually kinder and more virtuous than ourselves. We humans like to think of ourselves as humble beings, yet at the same time, above all other animals in the world but we lack the fundamental attributes which allow the animal kingdom to flourish – respect and humility.
Artist Aida Emelyanova
Exhibition I Do Whatever You Animals Do
When 7th September until 14th September 2015
Time 10 AM – 6 PM