Feral Attraction: borderlands and representation
In this paper which derives from the initial stages of an artwork and the consequent writing of an essay for a publication Routledge Handbook of Human - Animal Studies. Editors Susan McHugh and Garry Marvin,we explore a particular incident in which a flock of feral sheep, for 30 years resident on a remote mountain in North West Iceland, were finally and with great difficulty herded up in order to conform to the expectations and legal subordination of farmed animals in the country.
At the heart of the story is a prevailing and compelling image of a community of domestic animals, which despite climatic inclemency and the seeming impenetrability of this landscape, survived without human care for three decades and indeed showed every sign that they might have continued to live there in perpetuity.
As artists we are interested in the animal itself, its representation and transition from a farmed animal to a feral animal and its survival in the wild. In this relational art project we are exploring through mixed media the relationship between the animals and theirenvironment and the impact of the landscape on their survival in shaping their physiology and longevity.
In addition we will examine how the context influenced the reading of this controversial and emotive act, both as it was conveyed to the majority of the population, through the press and by those local people who as a part of their lives tolerated and finally excised the rogue herd.
Using interviews we conducted with several individuals involved in the roundup, we examine these perspectives, amongst others, to unpack the tensions, contradictions and opportunities in what reflects a broader reappraisal of the 'proper order' of our relationship to animals and to environment.