Toronto-based festival of art and science, Subtle Technologies, is on from 7 to 9th June for the 16th year running, on the theme of Immortality. As we’re waiting for the programme to be announced shortly, it gives me an excellent pretext to mention an artistic experiment that has haunted me since I read a review in We Make Money Not Art: Que le cheval vive en moi / May the Horse Live in Me by Art Orienté Objet.
In my first Art and Animals entry, I explored the collective and participatory dimension of TransHumance, flagship event of Marseille 2013 European Capital of Culture, which was developed with a myriad of embedded learning opportunities. Producing company Théâtre du Centaure define themselves as a heterotopia – the physical representation or approximation of a utopia, in Foucault’s language. It strives to create a new Actor, the Centaur – neither man nor horse.
French art collective Art Orienté Objet took the bioart route to explore the myth of the Centaur: performance artist Marion Laval-Jeantet injected her body with horse blood plasma over the course of several months, and took a carefully controlled higher dose on the day of the performance – at the Gallery Kapelica in Ljubljana, Slovenia, in February 2011.
Here’s how she describes this experiment in an interview for an exhibition at Rurart (a contemporary art centre in the French countryside, related to the Ministry of Agriculture) [translation from French via We Make Money Not Art]:
I had the feeling of being extra-human. I was not in my usual body. I was hyper-powerful, hyper-sensitive, hyper-nervous and very diffident. The emotionalism of an herbivore. I could not sleep. I probably felt a bit like a horse.
There is nothing participatory about May the Horse Live in Me: the performer is alone, in the risks she takes, in the feelings she experiences. She can also never repeat the experiment, as states this VIDA (International Art and Artificial Life Awards) awards entry: “As a general rule, a person can only undergo such a challenge to body boundaries once and survive.”
The life of the work continues in its mediated form, through videos, images and texts, some of which are accessible in the Rurart archive. In her essay “De l’incorporation du sens” / “On the incorporation of meaning” (in French only), Marion Laval-Jeantet explains her research topics and methods, and the long conceptual and scientific process that has led to May the Horse… since 2004.
Art Orienté Objet’s project won the 2011 Golden Nica in the Hybrid Art category at Ars Electronica, which befits particularly well Marion Laval-Jeantet, herself artist, clinical psychologist and anthropologist. At the heart of the collective she formed with her partner Benoît Mangin, there’s a refusal to settle for perfect balance or for conclusions, and a desire to fully engage with the dynamic relationships between seemingly opposite poles: research and art, thinking and doing, observing and experimenting, human and animal.
A comprehensive catalogue of their art practice of the past decade has just been published, and for more on their motivations and processes, head over to this interview in English with Régine Debatty from We Make Money Not Art.