London

Nicolás Lamas, Untitled (Becoming Animal), 2018, used domestic refrigerator, vintage fur coat, 19 1⁄4 × 21 5⁄8 × 33 1⁄2".

Nicolás Lamas, Untitled (Becoming Animal), 2018, used domestic refrigerator, vintage fur coat, 19 1⁄4 × 21 5⁄8 × 33 1⁄2".

Petra Ferlancová and Nicolás Lamas

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Taking its title from a phrase coined by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in 1987, the exhibition “Becoming Animal” comprised two solo presentations by Petra Feriancová and Nicolás Lamas. Deleuze and Guattari’s idea saw the self as fluid and continually changing under the influence of relationships with fellow living beings, including animals; it countered a humanist perspective that was occasionally used to justify a colonial, aggressive approach to nature.

Occupying a room and the front window of the gallery, Feriancová’s interpretation of “becoming animal” focused on the zoological terms homomorphy and homochromy. Upon entering the space, viewers came across two boxes filled with live organisms: moths and cocooned larvae, part of Mimicry and Legendary Psychasthenia (Roger Caillois) (all works 2018). Titled after Caillois’s 1935 essay of the same name, the work included prints on silk and baryta paper (hung in different corners) depicting various animals. On a low-hanging print of a turbot (a species of flatfish) here shown resting on a sandy seabed, the artist also screened fragmented phrases—her own words combined with lines appropriated from biology textbooks and David Bowie songs—telling her experience of always having felt more animal than human. To illustrate this self-perception, Feriancová compared different parts of her body to those of other species: a tortoise, a wolf, a fox, a bird. Although similarities between her psyche and those of the abovementioned animals might be real, it is difficult to speak here about a cross-species relationship, so crucial to Deleuze and Guattari’s concept. While reading Feriancová’s words and standing among cages filled with live moths and cocoons in the middle of the room, one could feel that her human sense of superiority over fauna and flora is still powerful.

A different set of tensions introduced Lamas’s work. In his section, visitors saw components of disused furniture and home appliances, seemingly inhabited by animals (all works 2018). In one piece, a doorless refrigerator lay on its back with a fur coat placed between its shelves and thermostat. The curled-up fur looked like a living animal, maybe a fox, sleeping with its back against us. Another work, featuring a white panel whose primary function was difficult to determine at first glance (but was actually part of an ikea kitchen cabinet), had a wasp’s nest installed at the top. Although very sculptural and minimal in their appearances, Lamas’s works show the animal element as very present, making this part of the exhibition appear more alive than Feriancová’s component, in spite of the fact that she incorporated actual living creatures. Lamas’s intervention felt like nature’s revenge, in which the earth reclaimed resources and places from people. The works on display presented the relationship between humans and animals as a case of us versus them, rather than a peaceful alliance. These stands prove how significantly removed we are from other species, and how challenging, if not impossible, it is to become an animal, not just in appearance but in mind-set.