On 7 June, the exhibition titled “Extremely Cute Cohabitation” will be opened at the University of Tartu Botanical Garden, in which four artists show their critical interpretation of human-animal interaction from the perspective of occupying space. The exhibition is also the official opening event for this year’s Nature Festival.
At a time of intense human land use and destruction of habitats, as we are experiencing the sixth mass extinction of species, human-animal cohabitation raises attention. Although domestication has put humans in close contact with animals, it has not prompted a significantly operational sharing of habitats.
According to the curator of the exhibition, Professor of Romance Studies at the University of Tartu, Sara Bédard-Goulet, the four works showcased at the exhibition – Did You Do That? and Coworking with Fur by Flo Kasearu, She Was Called Petra by Damien Beyrouthy and Rhinocerotopia by Jean Arnaud and François Landriot – make us think about responsibility, which is inevitably involved with sharing and cohabitation. “While the voices name the outwardly guilty party in Did You Do That?, there is room for the spectator to imagine who that can be and of what crime it is accused of. The hybridity raised by cohabitation is brought to the fore in Coworking with Fur which attempts to embody the boredom experienced by captive and domesticated animals. Habitat destruction is key to both She Was Called Petra and Rhinocerotopia but the two works also point out the unavoidable hybridity of ecosystems and the necessary debate that they engage in. All four works provide powerful images of animal lives as singular lived experiences, creating significance and attracting attention to the specific dialogue required with each individual,” says Bédard-Goulet.
The University of Tartu Botanical Garden offers a relevant and unique environment to hold this exhibition. As it collects plant species to protect and exhibit them in an urban area, it provides contact with unique specimens while raising questions about the protection of actual ecosystems and thus cohabitation. The exhibition is connected to a research project about the cultural representation of endangered species which emphasises the contribution of arts not only to mediate this important issue but also to produce, combined with scholarly research, critically informed works.
The exhibition is a joint effort supported by the University of Tartu Natural History Museum and Botanical Garden, the University of Tartu College of Foreign Languages and Cultures, Cultural Endowment of Estonia and the French Institute of Estonia. The exhibition can be visited daily from 10 to 17 with the botanical garden ticket and remains open until 31 July.
The exhibition is part of the Nature Festival programme, which takes place from 7–13 July. The programme (in Estonian) is available on the website. The Nature Festival is organised by the University of Tartu Natural History Museum and Botanical Garden and their partners.
curator of the exhibition
University of Tartu Professor of Romance Studies