Goat Study Part 2

Abby Cunnane 2013

Exhibition furniture is as familiar to gallery audiences as it is often invisible. The white plinth fits seamlessly into an environment typically defined by its austere cleanliness, clear light and sheer modernist architecture. A goat: less typical. In Linda Tegg’s work a young goat stands atop its triangular plinth. Pristine and monochromatic itself, but for its occasional restive movements the goat too could be art object, an extension of its environment, and certainly it’s the protagonist and performer in the context of this video.

Goat Study Part 2 is part of a series of related works by the artist, in which she stages the juxtaposition of what is ‘natural’ with codes of behaviour and conventions of display that govern spaces dedicated to aesthetic experience. Often involving animals, these works re-inhabit spaces we are familiar with—hotel rooms, galleries and other public buildings—so that we see them quite differently. To see a Mexican Grey wolf calmly stationed in a suburban twin-share is to reconsider ‘wildness’ and domesticity. It also brings into question what it means to perform to camera, the role of documentary, and distinctions we might make between environment, habitat, and site, a word prevalent in discussion around contemporary art.

A herd animal, the goat has the slightly uncomfortable air of one dislocated from its regular social and physical context. In its shifting movements we might recognise the sometimes veiled restlessness of human behaviour in a gallery, perhaps those of someone unsure if they are watching or being watched. Working always with domesticated and trained goats, and in close collaboration with their handlers, Tegg is interested in the layers of performance implicit in every viewing experience, and how a gallery is also a space of surveillance. Filmed in the immaculate Centre d’art Neuchâtel in Switzerland, in this work the camera pans its subject with relentless focus. All poise and dignity, the goat ultimately seeks to exit the stage.

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