Exhibition - Bambitchell: Bugs and Beasts Before the Law

Saturday, Apr 10, 2021 at 10:00am

Henry Art Gallery
4100 15th Avenue NorthEast and 41st Street
Seattle, WA 98195


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Bugs & Beasts Before the Law is a multi-part project and experimental essay film by Bambitchell, the artistic collaboration of Sharlene Bamboat (b. 1984, Karachi, Pakistan) and Alexis Kyle Mitchell (b. 1983, Canada).

The film, co-produced by the Henry with Mercer Union, Toronto, in 2019, explores the history and legacy of the animal trials that took place in medieval and early modern Europe and its colonies in the Americas. Posing questions about the administration of justice and rights under law, it center on the phenomenon of nonhuman animals and inanimate objects put on trial and prosecuted for various crimes and offenses, ranging from thievery to assault and murder. Across five chapters, the film explores how power is performed through the body of the other, revealing the ways authorities and institutions mediate social relations and subjecthood through processes including the formation of property and the criminalization of sexual difference. Events from the fourteenth through the early twentieth century are set within contemporary landscape and fabricated tableaux, blurring past and present, fact and fiction, and accentuating the law as a capricious system shaped beyond reason.

The installation features an immersive audio score developed in collaboration with Scottish composer Richy Carey and a built amphitheater structure that accentuates the spectacle of the courts as theatres of social control while also suggesting the potential for their deconstruction and reimagining new possibilities. At the Henry, on the occasion of their first museum exhibition in the United States, the artists will present a complementary installation of drawings based on their reading of E.P. Evans's book the Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals (1906), the first chapter of which, titled "Bugs and Beast Before the Law," is the foundational English-language text on the medieval animal trials. Evans's appendix to his book presents itself as a definitive authority but is an incomplete record. This ambiguity is a central point of departure for Bambitchell, whose installation interrogates the fictive unity of historical narrative and perceived conclusiveness of inherited knowledge by questioning the narrator's reliability and opening the past to interpretation.

Exhibition Dates: February 27, 2021 - May 09, 2021.

Location: Upper Level Galleries

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