There was once a time when we could not digest the milk of other beasts, so instead we drank their blood. Some of these creatures, through our own bestowment, became holy. Eventually however, through the progressive resilience and hive-like perseverance of our oafish kind, our vomiting stomachs acclimatized, enabling in us the freedom to drink deluges of this calm…white…lucid…liquid.
Moreover, if we treat our dear beast – in this case the Holy Cow – as a subject for a film, we could easily imagine her as some kind of sturdy nucleus who sits calmly and coolly amidst the pandemonium generated by us many, many humans carrying out our challenging daily activities. These activities may include; driving cars, lighting fires, getting dressed, cooking meals, checking emails, using tools, listening to music, going to war, going to the toilet, decorating the house, filming things, meditating, having sexual intercourse, or waiting on tables.
“Sir, could I please have a chai tea without milk?”
“I’m sorry, we don’t have milk. Would you like it without cream?”
This is the Cow.
From December 17th, 2009 to January 20th, 2010 I traveled to India to create two distinct yet entwined bodies of work based around the Holy Cows. Taking the cow as a central subject, I produced a 45 minute film experiment that merges unexpected combinations of common everyday objects i.e. cows, plants, piles of dirt, water etc to produce a veering narrative that is sustained by the cow as the reoccurring character. The film is at once a study of an animal’s role in daily life but also a challenge in how one can make a portrait of a place without making humans the main characters. The film expanded from a Dérive-like process that prioritized unscripted occurrences within varying environments and sought to produce a slow-paced work that would allow room for the viewer’s own ruminations upon a ruminating animal.
In addition to the film I collaborated and worked with numerous sign painters, strangers, and fellow travelers in an attempt to produce ninety-nine painting and collage experiments. The subject of these works developed from a hand-painted sign hung around the neck of a cow in the book One Hundred Years of Solitude: THIS IS THE COW, SHE MUST BE MILKED EVERY MORNING SO THAT SHE WILL PRODUCE MILK AND THE MILK MUST BE BOILED IN ORDER TO BE MIXED WITH COFFEE TO MAKE COFFEE AND MILK.
Earlier versions of THIS IS THE COW have been exhibited in Europe and Canada including: Kiss of Life, Glasgow Biennial (2010), The Bosch Young Talent Show, Stedelijk Museum ’s-Hertogenbosch (2011), Magic Love Trade Objects, Art Geneve (2012) and Material Information, Bergen (2012).
Accompanying the exhibition will be a publication with texts by Giles Bailey (UK), Tanja Baudoin (NL), Jesse Birch (CA), Frank J.Korom (US), Arvo Leo (CA/NZ), and Jan Verwoert (DE).
Please note that the film will be screening on the hour.
Arvo Leo & The Western Front.
Art is what makes life more interesting than art. - Robert Filliou.