Understudy for Animal Farm is an interactive performance that explores issues of power, status, and identity. The work begins with 10 individual pig masks (or hoods) fashioned out of pillowcases and designed to be handled and worn. Gallery visitors and passers-by are invited to choose a pig to try on. Once the participant puts on a pig hood, their photograph taken in a small “set” composing a rural vignette made up of drawings, photographs, wallpaper, and text. Each photograph is later loaded onto a dedicated website for the project. Individual images become visible on the site once the original participant has “unlocked” the image with an access code. In this way, the viewer takes on responsibility for their image by making it public.
By inviting viewers to interact directly with Understudy for Animal Farm, I hope to question and expose the roles we all play in maintaining power hegemonies and hierarchies. The pillowcase itself evokes feelings of intimacy and comfort. However, as the mask is put on and obscures the participant’s identity, it becomes a veil, a hood, even a gag. At the same time, the prints and patterns on the fabric establish and evoke their own cultural distinctions by drawing upon ideas of “good taste.” I am interested in exploring how the domestic realm comes to symbolize complete totalitarian control in George Orwell’s Animal Farm. As the pigs begin to walk upright and move into the deserted farmhouse, it is the wool plaid and floral chintz of rural England that indicate the pigs’ authority. In this way, Orwell creates an unexpected friction between the menacing force of the pigs’ tyrannical rule and the mundane, domestic sphere.
The pig heads I am posting here will be a part of a 2 day performance at Station Independent in New York on August 23 and 24, 2014.
Ligia Bouton was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and spent her childhood in London, England. She received her education at Vassar College and at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. Her creative work combines sculpture and drawing with performance, digital video, and photography to recreate appropriated narratives. Each project wrestles with the intersection of functionality and narrative, drawing on sources from art history, classical and contemporary literature, and science. Recent projects have been shown at National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington D.C., Guildhall Gallery in London, SITE Santa Fe, the New Mexico Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Art Alliance, and the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art. Past projects have been installed in New York at Bill Maynes Gallery and Denise Bibro Fine Art, and in New Jersey at City Without Walls. Reviews of this work have appeared in Art in America, Art Papers, The Philadelphia Enquirer and The New York Times. Bouton’s video work has been shown at Art Claims Impulse in Berlin, in the Biennial of Contemporary Art, Nimes, France, and at the Temporary Art Center, Eindhoven, The Netherlands, as well as in The Female Avant Garde Festival in Prague.
Ligia Bouton is currently Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Foundations at the University of New Mexico, and lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with her family.