The Dead Walk Side by Side with the Living

Dependent upon which screen of The Dead Walk Side by Side with the Living a visitor first fixates upon the installation invites immersion in parallel but distinct worlds. The three screens depict, in no particular order: the closely observed accumulation of the details of human/animal life; the more languorous details of two chimpanzees grooming one another and themselves; and the combination of oblique, accidental poetic voice over in an apparent disjunction with close up images of human/animal world details in another. The territories marked out by the installation are delineated by distinct markers and pathways elaborated through binary divisions that become intertwined opposites.

Primary amongst these is the human/animal binary but the installation also brings into play related antinomies. These include those between language and silence, much of the installation being subsumed in natural sound until the outbreak of disjointed, involuntarily poetic language on one screen. Then there is the antinomy between boredom and absorption, played out between the tension stricken humans on one screen and the contented, grooming chimpanzees on another. Another is that between the experience of tactility and intimacy with the world and a more mediated or alienated distance and separation. Additionally, there is the most awful binary division: death and life. This inheres in the status of life as such, elaborated throughout the installation as consistently subject to biopolitical management, human and animal environments merging and juxtaposed.

Emergent in the installation is that humanity and animality rest upon one another, and while defined against one another can also become entwined to the point of indistinguishability. Central to the way the human/animal binary is problematised is the way Ångerman utilizes the video form to upset the notion of an untouched nature. The chimpanzees seem a tactile parody of the broken separation of the human couple on the adjacent screen, a mirror image of affective animality. The camera places tactility at a distance but also emphasises that it is often only through such that something like the truth of tactile intimacy can be glimpsed.

The disjointed intimacy of the human/animal binary is glimpsed in the domestic sphere, the home, as well as the analogies drawn between human body and animal body. In one screen the camera lingers over the juxtaposition of human traces and animal traces. Animal marks on sand and ground and the shape of a human body upon the bed; the scaled stasis of lizard skin placed proximate with the smooth vulnerability of domesticated human skin. In the correspondences drawn in this screen between animal and human bodies there are more than purely visual analogies at stake. Through such juxtapositions of humanity and animality The Dead Walk Side by Side with the Living inscribes a much more mobile and essentially problematic border between the two.

John Cunningham

Writer and researcher