Puppies Puppies at Freddy Gallery
The recent exhibition at Freddy Gallery, Horseshoecrabs Horseshoecrabs by New Mexico artist Puppies Puppies, featured painted horseshoe crabs and vinyl works in addition to a live performance. The work provides a visual explanation of the LAL test which involves the use of a chemical found only in the amoebocytes of the horseshoe crab’s blood cells. To quote the press release: “Pharmaceutical companies burst the cells that contain the chemical, called coagulogen. Then, they can use the coagulogen to detect contamination in any solution that might come into contact with blood. If there are dangerous bacterial endotoxins in the liquid – even at a concentration of one part per trillion – the horseshoe crab blood extract will go to work” by turning the solution into a ‘gel’ substance. In other words, virtually every American who has ever received an injection has been protected because we harvest the blood of the horseshoe crab.
Puppies Puppies further speaks about the need, obligation and instinct to procreate in regards to both the production of paintings and within the horseshoe crab population itself. They state, “Maybe these expressions are addressing my need to survive and to hide under many layers in order to do so. To understand my fleeting existence but [also to] know that humans like me will continue to paint. To breed on the shoreline in shallow water only to propel the existence of my expressions and the expressions to come later on…” With this description, I begin to think of all the other happenings required for the two processes of production to take place – the full moons and high tides necessary for a typical horseshoe crab mating season, or even the worms and clams that form the horseshoe crab’s regular diet. However, I do not want to view this relationship being described as one that temporarily floats above the mechanics of the everyday.
If we take, for instance, French sociologist Bruno Latour’s actor-network theory (which treats objects as part of social networks), we remove humans from a metaphysical top-tier in our analysis and mobilize horseshoe crabs as a driving force in that same relationship (able to act or participate in that same list of networks). If we instill within the horseshoe crab an ability to act or participate actively in a system of networks (not through animism or our imagination, but rather through a pseudo-flattened ontological mindset) we begin a conversation that is a lot less lonely. Less lonely in the sense that we may begin to realize we share the stage (as both humans and artists) with a lot more actors who have just as much, if not more, experience as we do. In other words, populations are no longer swept to stage left and labeled as other, everything else, or even people (as some ecological discussions tend to drift towards) and a hyperobject such as a horseshoe crab becomes a great partner to have.
The instinct to reproduce (whether painting or horseshoe crab mating) may not be mythical or some thing we humans (artists) should find unbelievable and/or beautiful. The horseshoe crab may in fact be acting within its networks and among its set of alliances. As the horseshoe crab continues to breed on the shoreline in shallow water only to propel its constant ability to act, to change and grow, painting continues along a parallel trajectory. Painting can so often be a perceived as a dreamy, mystical process of magic that happens when an artist is in their studio. Here, Puppies Puppies suggests that the initiative to paint is the same as a horseshoe crab’s performative act of reproduction. The fewer alliances an actor forms or has, the weaker their grip becomes on existence, therefore, painting (and, to a greater extent, art) survives (and is beautiful) through its alliances with other networks and its opaque malleability.
The average contemporary painter steps outside their mating process when they journey to the local art store to pick up the necessary paints, stretchers and canvas. As one starts to form a list of every thing related to the process of duplication, mating or ‘creating,’ and then a respective list of all the things related to that long list of things, it changes the way we speak about things – including those commonly idealized as being autonomous such as painting or horseshoe crab mating. It may be because of this notion that Puppies Puppies chose not to have painted, or even fabricated, any of the visual components of the show. This allows the perpetual act of recreation and duplication of painting to continue unfettered (even more so than the typical show we have become used to seeing) and creates a ‘shared stage’ in which Puppies Puppies and this sea creature truly connect.
Puppies Puppies: Horseshoecrabs Horseshoecrabs was on view at Freddy Gallery in Baltimore, MD through September 26, 2015.
Images courtesy Freddy Gallery.