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Joanna Rytel

I saw laboratory monkeys on TV who looked so bored. They looked ill, sad and disturbed, all at the same time. After all they are really bright creatures. It’s so unfair. “Whatever, let people die from disease instead, only so they won’t have to suffer for us.” “What if it where your child,” someone said. “Wouldn’t you want good medicine and its life saved, of course at the cost of animal testing?” “Certainly not,” I said. The guy who asked had kids, I didn’t. I was never allowed inside a research centre. “The monkeys have AIDS, what if you get squirted in the eye and become infected.” “I see. Is there anything else one could do for the animals?” I did Animal Performance. But it became something completely different. In my Animal Performances I am seen dancing in front of sheep, goats, horses, cows and stripping in front of monkeys. The spectator becomes a voyeur, watching the animals who are watching me. The spectators are deprived of their passive roles. Who is looking at whom and why? Who has the power over the gaze, the power over seeing?

Animal Performance is a serie of five acts: Sheep Performance, Horse Performance, Goat Performance, Cow Performance and Monkey Performance.

English title Monkey Performance
Keywords Dance , Performance, Animal, Body, Queer
Aspect ratio 1.33:1 (4:3)
Prod. format Generic SD-video
Duration 00:02:30
Language English & No dialogue
Color Color
Year 2002
Latest screening Apr 29, 2021
Rent this work for public screenings

About the artist

Joanna Rytel

Born 1974. Lives and works in Stockholm, Sweden. Joanna Rytel graduated in 2004 from the University College of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm. She has developed a complex artistry, which always points out our times most poignant issues of gender, power and identity. She approaches these issues with great integrity, putting the personal at stake, making her form of address accessible to those outside the usual art and film worlds. Considering how loaded these topics are, one might guess that Rytel would handle them with political correctness. Far from it The politically correct answers are left out and the reaction becomes stronger when viewers are deprived of their passive role and become a part of the answer.

Sex, gender, feminism, honour, abortion and racism: Joanna Rytel explores some of the most controversial topics of today. Rytel creates situations of an almost childishly provocative nature: she depicts sex workers at art shows, strips for animals, has birthday parties for aborted foetuses; a distressing method without a safety net.

Joanna Rytel has premiered twice at the Berlinale Shots with her films. 2016 she won the Teddy Award for her film Moms On Fire she also received a Swedish Oscar Nomination,
the Guldbagge Award for best short, with ‘Me seal, baby’.

Joanna Rytel:

My work can be divided in three main characters. One is my interest is in the relation between animals and humans. I have made performances for animals and filmed their reactions. In ‘Animal-Performance’ I play music, dance and strip for monkeys, cows, goats and horses. In ‘Then I´ll take your cat’ I masturbate in front of a cat. I both these works am interested in the animals reactions to human behaviors. In ‘They look like this’ I have photographed animals from behind. Animals are being reduced by humans and I want to make the animals into individuals instead of merely objects by showing that they have sexes. Society denies that animals have an identity in order to justify the use of them as objects, food, keep them in zoo, use them for experiment etc. I am interested in the human ethics that denies ethics of animals.

Another character in my work is in human relations and power structures. ‘A Film Inwards’ is about the desire and obsession to gain a persons love. This film project stress the question of power structures in love relationships. ‘To Think Thoughts You Don’t Want To Think’ is a project about unwanted racial thoughts. The story is in told in a dairy format and is about the ambiguity of white women’s racial thoughts and their desire of the black man. Both of these films are extensive projects. I have also made shorter video work and photos about these issues.

The third character of my work is feminism. I have made an action against the Miss Sweden Contest in 2001. Me and my college went up on stage in live television broadcast and unfolded a banderole with a feministic statement. This caused a huge media effect and since then the Miss Sweden Contest has not been shown in swedish live television anymore. I continuously write feminist texts that I read in performances at various events, both inside and outside the art-context. In ‘For Your Eyes Only’ I made an installation which a professional female stripper dancing exclusively for a female audience. Outside the strip-room there was a video with a female stripper speaking about the difference between dancing for a male and a female audience.