- PhMuseum 2023 Photography Grant
Dates2019 - Ongoing
SHIFTERS project is the result of the years I spent editing together archival material related to the use of animals by Western militaries, spy agencies, and police forces from the late 1800s to the 1970s. Building on concepts such as Éric Baratay’s, a French historian, ‘history from the animal point of view' or Foucault's 'biopolitics', I challenge the Judeo-Christian legacy used to justify the exploitation of ‘beasts’ by foregrounding the animals’ exhaustion, suffering, courage, and sacrifice.
Moreover the French revolution and its legacy, ideas of liberty and equality, seem in an urgent need of actualisation: the brotherhood of men first did not include women (enslaved people and children as well), today it still does not include non-human animals. We have reached a different point in time, we need to rethink our position in the world, and rebuild our community with all beings on Earth. Only then the true meaning of the humanist dream might be brought to light and fulfilled.
SHIFTERS project started as archival research and a collection of articles about animal spies. Suspicious squirrels, spying dolphins, misidentified stork, nuclear lizards, photographer pigeons – all these animals were accused of spying and appeared in mainstream media. Following the line of thought set by Éric Baratay and his scientific work on the animal agency and 'point de vue', I investigate the visual history of animals in wars and espionage, in services like the Red Cross or police. The images used in this project are mostly the ones circulating on the web, called by Hito Steyerl 'the bastard or weak images', the copies of copies, the low resolution ones. On the other hand I am interested in analysing the meaning of the term ‘agent’ itself: a spy but as well a subject doing action. Taking into account this interesting twist of animal agency I want to relate the multifaceted history of animals in war to the one of the liberation of animals and their rights.
The heart of this project is a 14-chapter artist book of 850 pages and a personal archive gathered through extensive research (more than 2000 images). The book uses archival & found footage and texts written by 4 authors. It was published by Foundation for Visual Arts and Landskrona Foto in May 2021 and won the PhotoESPANA Best International Photography Book of the Year 2022. It was also shortlisted for Mack First Book Award, Kassel Dummy Award and Luma Rencontres Arles Dummy Book Award. The project consists as well of a 12-minute video essay, collages, various texts, and a series of Sound Stories created in a participatory way during workshops that can be conducted in various locations.
I would like to propose a selection of works from SHIFTERS project, that will showcase these animal characters as subjects with agency. I want to try to help them voice their presence, concerns and experiences, because they cannot do it themselves easily. The issue of looking beyond the anthropocentric horizon seems to me one of the most pressing and complex of our times. There is a clear need for the society to evolve, become more inclusive, and hope for a better future of coexistence between all animals: human and non-human.
I also add some images of previous installations for reference, as it is very difficult "to contain" this project in a standard 20-photo entry.