Michael Stevenson

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Animals
edited by Filipa Ramos


Animals have become the focus of much recent art, informing numerous works and projects featured at major exhibitions including dOCUMENTA (13) (2013), the 10th Shanghai Biennale (2014), and the 56th Venice Biennale (2015). Contemporary art has emerged as a privileged terrain for exploring interspecies relationships, providing the conditions for diverse disciplines and theoretical positions to engage with animal behavior and consciousness.

This interest in animal nature reflects a number of current issues. Observations of empathy among nonhumans prompt reconsiderations of the human. The nonverbal communication of animals has been compared with poetic expansion of the boundaries of language. And the freedom of animal life in the wild from capitalist subordination is seen as a potential model for reconfiguring society and our relationship to the wider environment. Artists’ engagement with animals also opens up new perspectives on the dynamics of dominance, oppression, and exclusion, with parallels in human society. Animal nature is at the heart of debates on the Anthropocene era and the ecological concerns of scientists, thinkers, and artists alike. Centered on contemporary artworks, this anthology attests to the trans-disciplinary nature of this subject, with art as one of the principal points of convergence.

Artists surveyed include
Allora & Calzadilla, Francis Alÿs, Julieta Aranda, Brandon Ballengée, Joseph Beuys, Marcel Broodthaers, Lygia Clark, Marcus Coates, Jimmie Durham, Marcel Dzama, Simone Forti, Pierre Huyghe, Natalie Jeremijenko, Joan Jonas, Eduardo Kac, Mike Kelley, Henri Michaux, Robert Morris, Henrik Olesen, Lea Porsager, Julia Reodica, Carolee Schneemann, Michael Stevenson, Rodel Tapaya, Rosemarie Trockel, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Haegue Yang, Adam Zaretsky

Writers include
Giorgio Agamben, Steve Baker, Raymond Bellour, Walter Benjamin, John Berger, Jonathan Burt, Ted Chiang, Simon Critchley, Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida, David Elliott, Carla Freccero, Maria Fusco, Tristan García, Félix Guattari, Donna J. Haraway, Seung-Hoon Jeong, Miwon Kwon, Chus Martinez, Brian Massumi, Thomas Nagel, Jean-Luc Nancy, Ingo Niermann, Vincent Normand, Ana Teixeira Pinto, Will Self, Jan Verwoert, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro

About the Editor
Filipa Ramos is editor-in-chief of art-agenda and a Lecturer in Experimental Film at Kingston University and Moving Image at Central Saint Martins, London. She is the author of Lost and Found: Crisis of Memory in Contemporary Art (2009).

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Animals (Documents of Contemporary Art)
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Bookbook 2007-2011

Bookbook is a project of the Simon Starling Class at Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Kunst – Städelschule

List of Contents
Anonymous Stage I Contribution
Primary/Secondary (Information) by Benjamin Lobko
Donald Duck Hitler and the Chocolate Factory – a work in progress by Dan Starling
Anonymous Stage I Contributions
Stage II Contributions
Anonymous Stage I Contributions
The Hermit & The Sea by Michael Stevenson
Stage II Contributions
Before This (An Afterword) by Simon Starling
Unlrelated Things Related by Patrick Keaveney

Published by the Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Kunst – Städelschule

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Bookbook 2007-2011
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Attention Economy
Jahresring #60: Jahrbuch für moderne Kunst

Edited by Brigitte Oetker and Nicolaus Schafhausen
Interviews with Saâdane Afif, Thomas Bayrle, Michael Beutler, Monica Bonvicini, Mike Bouchet, Ulla von Brandenburg, Angela Bulloch, Andrea Büttner, Keren Cytter, Simon Denny, Thea Djordjadze, Ólafur Elíasson, Harun Farocki, Dani Gal, Katharina Grosse, Eberhard Havekost, Florian Hecker, Christian Jankowski, Susanne Kriemann, Antje Majewski, Olaf Metzel, Carsten Nicolai, Olaf Nicolai, Marcel Odenbach, Silke Otto-Knapp, Willem de Rooij, Cornelia Schleime, Michael Stevenson, Hito Steyerl, Haegue Yang, Tobias Zielony

The 60th Jahresring takes the form of a compilation of artist interviews and offers a snapshot of a highly active art scene that stretches from Berlin, as a new international center for art. Nicolaus Schafhausen put a series of questions to thirty-one art practitioners, less geared toward the artists’ respective praxis and more toward the conditions under which it arises.

Art’s presence in the field of new media has never been more pronounced; access to media images and Internet-based possibilities for research have significantly altered contemporary art production. The art market too has changed, gaining influence in the field of contemporary art as even art institutions take a different approach today than they did twenty years ago.

The focus in these interviews is on the respective self-positioning by the artists in an era shaped by such far-reaching changes. What emerges are temporally fixed positions within an activity that is, for the most large part, associated with precarious working conditions and the logistics of the market more than ever before. This book offers insight into this “other” dimension of an artist’s existence and registers attention economy as a central component of contemporary art production.

Design by Tobias Donat

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Attention Economy Jahresring #60
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Michael Stevenson & Jan Verwoert
Animal Spirits: Fables in the Parlance of Our Times

In March 2008 the artist Michael Stevenson self-published a slender document entitled Fables to accompany his project Lender of Last Resort at the Kröller-Müller Museum in the Netherlands. It was a series of some nine texts in fable form, and each suggested further allegorical readings on a tableau the artist assembled in the museum. All were co-written by Stevenson and the art critic Jan Verwoert. The project itself was developed around the notion of the bilateral loan contract, both in the financial sense, but also regarding the museological. A loan is perhaps best defined as an inter-temporal transfer of value through time. It is probably the oldest financial instrument, dating at least from the birth of writing. Some of the first ever written documents describe loans, bad loans in fact (default being the real reason the record has remained). The tableau itself was constructed from objects related to the founding of the museum, a process that unfolded in and among the banking crisis of 1924. The publication was only available in the space itself and has long since been out of print.

Animal Spirits: Fables in the Parlance of Our Times is an artist’s book by Michael Stevenson and Jan Verwoert which expands upon the themes of this earlier document and re-examines them more specifically in the light of our current times. It is based on a collaborative process, a process that resembles a game. Stevenson and Verwoert developed a working method in which plot structure remained open, a kind of partial exquisite corpse, i.e. text fragments passed back and forth without prior discussion as to any through line. These stories were co-illustrated in a similar way by the artist and Margaret Stevenson, his mother—the moral guide; the results were then made into a publication by Christoph Keller. A page at the end of the book announces the contributors thus: artist, mother, critic, and spirit maker.

The stories themselves take classic fable form and so most are concerned with arrangements between two parties or what could be called informal bilateral contracts. Galvanized and translated within parallel realities they produce a world in which the Beginning of the World has a voice and dares to question the might of the Bull. A world where the Shareholder sips wine at the dinner table with the Jackal, and the Lion, in a crisis, calls on his Hairdresser for council in matters of sovereign security. “Haircuts … Severe haircuts!”

Text by Michael Stevenson and Jan Verwoert
Illustrations by Michael Stevenson and Margaret Stevenson

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Michael Stevenson & Jan Verwoert - Animal Spirits
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