Leda and the Swan, 2019
These are production stills from Leda and the Swan, a four-screen 2k video projection. The premise is straightforward. I, the artist, and a male swan are put into a room together to see what happens. The inspiration for the work is Greek mythology; the seduction (or rape) of Leda by Zeus, who has adopted the form of a swan to deceive Leda, who is married. The seduction/rape of Leda by Zeus has played out in mosaics discovered in Pompei, in Greek and Roman statuary, in European painting and in 20th century photography. My video is a continuation of my exploration of classical themes and mythology, specifically in relation to questions of embodiment. “Fullness, emobodiedness, the sensation of being”, as J.M. Coetzee put it in The Lives of Animals.
The video is part of a contemporary lineage, starting with Jospeh Beuys’s famous 1974 performance, I Like America and America Likes Me, in which he places himself in a gallery with a coyote for eight hours, three days in a row. My video stands as a counterpoint, in that the swan or predator does not act out a seduction or aggression (as in the Greek myth). The swan is entirely self-absorbed, narcissistically preening itself and ignoring my presence. The lineage for the video also includes Mircea Cantor’s 2005 work Deeparture, in which he placed a deer in a gallery space with a wolf. In all three videos there is the presumption of a predator/prey relationship, each played out with different outcomes, but none where violence ensues. My work puts forward a female (and aging body) for contemplation, but also creates an ambiguous frame in which it is less clear which actor is meant as the predator and which as the prey.