Exhibition: Bugs and Beasts Before the Law

Thursday, Oct 8, 2020 at 11:00am

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

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Bugs & Beasts Before the Law (2019) is an experimental essay film by Bambitchell, the artistic collaboration of Sharlene Bamboat (b. 1984, Pakistan; lives and works in Canada) and Alexis Mitchell (b. 1983, Canada; lives and works in Scotland). The artists’ single-channel film, shot in 16mm color and HD video, poses questions about the administration of justice and rights under the law.

The film explores the history and legacy of the “animal trials” that took place in medieval and early modern Europe and its network of colonies, in which nonhuman animals and inanimate objects were put on trial for various crimes and offenses, ranging from thievery to assault and murder. The film follows events from the fourteenth through the early twentieth century, questioning how power is performed through the body of the other. Each of the film’s five chapters centers on a specific “trial” or type of trial that engages questions about how the law mediates social relations and personhood through such processes as the formation of property and the criminalization of sexual difference. These stories of the past are narrated against contemporary landscapes and within constructed tableaux, blurring past and present, fact and fiction, and creating an absurdist narrative of the justice system that is all too resonant today.

The installation features an immersive audio score developed by Richy Carey with Bambitchell, and a built amphitheater structure that accentuates the spectacle and function of the animal trials as tools of social control. At the Henry, on the occasion of their first museum exhibition in the United States, the artists will create a complementary installation of their research material, which consists of archival documents that conjure how the animal trials figure in the historic imaginary and lay the groundwork for the mechanisms of legal practice that shape contemporary society.

Bambitchell: Bugs & Beasts Before the Law is held in conjunction with the Feminist Art Coalition (FAC), a nationwide initiative of art projects that seek to generate cultural awareness of feminist thought, experience, and action. To amplify the FAC message of inclusion and social justice, the Henry is dedicating its complete gallery footprint to exhibitions and programs conceived under this rubric in the summer/fall of 2020. 

A publication produced with the artists and designed by Gary Robbins at Container Corps, with essays by Sarah Keenan and Marianne Shaneen, and a curatorial introduction, will accompany the exhibition.

Exhibition Date: August 08, 2020 — January 10, 2021

Location: Upper Level Galleries

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