Review of Animalesque, Baltic, Newcastle 

26/05/2020

This exhibition is my favourite kind of exhibition: a group show based around a theme that is tangible to everyone. Animalesque focuses on the relationship between animals, humans and the planet. The multimedia exhibition offers insight into this connection between the natural and man-made world. Standout works for me were 2 or 3 Tigers by Ho Tzu Nyen and Untitled (Human Mask) by Pierre Huyghe. The first shown in a black box in the centre of the space is an animation following Singapore’s colonial history and its relationship to tigers, Huyghe’s video shows Japan after the Fukushima nuclear disaster that was triggered by a tsunami, it follows a monkey-human girl hybrid through an empty restaurant. Huyghe’s work offers a disturbing image; an abandoned child, animal and world, it demonstrates the fragility of our planet and the importance of balance between humans and the natural world. These works take on big subjects that need airtime today but the exhibition also takes on a wider understanding of the Animalesque qualities of humans in a lighthearted way. Marcus Coates’ text piece explores more literal ways that humans and animals (this time monkeys) are similar, allowing the audience to choose for themselves whether each statement relates to a monkey or a human, demonstrating the difficulty distinguishing us from them. The Jungle Book Project by Pierre Bismuth shows one of the ways we might perceive animals as a child, through the humanoid animated versions on TV, it shows a looped version of The Jungle Book with each character speaking a different dubbed language. The other works did not have quite the same hold on me as these, however the different small screens, sculptural works and 2D pieces added to the feeling of the show. Particularly the animal-monster-human sculptures by Paloma Varga Weisz which illustrate the exhibitions’ stance on the lack of difference between animals and humans. Despite these other works not aiding the narrative in the same way, they do demonstrate the breadth of work about this topic, and show that artists are perceiving these similarities in many different ways, and therefore there are many ways that everyone can notice them.