I made this piece between 11th April and 16th May, 3 weeks of which I was furloughed from my day job and on lockdown at home. As is frequently the case, the influence of our times – pandemic living – played a large part in the ultimate meaning in this piece.
It all started with this little creature – a Halloween crab, seen in the mangrove swamps lining the beach and the jungle, on a magical day, on a magical artist residency in Costa Rica in January.
I was so delighted to have seen this animal that I began to research it to see if there was any interesting narrative around it I could express in my artform.
When googling ‘halloween crab’ the whole first page of results consisted nearly totally links to ‘how to take care of your cool new pet’ or YouTube videos from ‘alt models’ showing off their – again – latest cool/cute/spooky pet crab. Try it now – you’ll see.
I found this deeply upsetting.
Digging deeper, I stumbled across an article in National Geographic about wildlife trafficking. This is an incredibly complex, depressing and anger-inducing topic. Please be warned, this article contains many extremely upsetting images.
There were two main points in the article that struck me. The demand for ‘exotic’ pets (this is anything that is not domesticated – so if it isn’t a dog, cat or rabbit/guinea pig type, it falls into this category) is hugely linked to illegal wildlife trade. The damage this trade does to species, food webs, ecosystems is catastrophic.
The other point is zoonoses – the spread of disease from animals to humans. In the article, CITES (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species) says that their research has shown that the factor most likely to get people to stop supporting wildlife trafficking, and in turn the pet trade, animal ‘medicines’ and ‘exotic meats’ etc., is when the risk to human health is emphasised.
I read this article while still on residency in January. Almost exactly simultaneously, reports started coming out of a new disease that had crossed the human/animal barrier, in China, probably from an animal market in Wuhan.
Obviously I realise this little crab is adjacent to COVID-19. But how far away is it? This piece was my personal response to, first observing this beautiful, magical little animal, at home in it’s – also threatened – natural habitat of mangrove swamp.
When we decide ‘oh, that’s so cool and pretty!’, why does it follow ‘I need to consume that’? And therefore a domino effect of cruelty and suffering ensues.
And here we are, in a global pandemic. Everything is connected. All life.
Nature is not ours for the taking.
In Dante’s ‘Inferno’ there is a mountain in one of the circles of Hell called Mount Delectable. It is beautiful and magical and contains all earthly delights.
Man tries to scale this mountain, and can never reach the top because wild animals and untamed natural forces throw him down.
If you are able, I would encourage you to watch this video I made of me talking more about this piece. As my work becomes more and more informed by research and complex narratives, it is my preference to just film myself speaking, than write it all down.
Thanks for reading.