Archive for August 5, 2011
Last month, I defended Diablo in front of Arizona State University’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.
Diablo is the 6-foot Anaconda snake that will inhabit one of Juan Downey’s sculptures for the fall exhibition The Invisible Architect.
I have done a lot of things as a contemporary art curator, especially as the role has become more collaborative in the creative process and with the community. I have worked with artists on site-specific installations inside and outside of the Museum, commissions, residencies and socially-engaged work. (John Spiak’s blogs on this site about Gregory Sale’s Social Studies project are a great example.) But this is the first time that I’ve had to defend a live animal “protocol” or investigate the eating (and defecating) habits of large snakes.
We will be borrowing Diablo from the Phoenix Herpetological Society, and they will be caring for him throughout the exhibition and have fully vetted his three-month habitat.
Curiosity and spectacle aside, the reason that I’m doing this is because it is a very powerful piece. Downey first installed the work in 1973, and it was originally produced for a show at The Americas Society in New York. The snake lives during the exhibition on a spectacular hand-drawn map of Chile and is a reference to the North American multinational copper company the Anaconda Mining Company. Anaconda was active in Chile before the nationalization of mining in Chile, which is one of the factors that led international business and its governmental surrogates to eliminate elected democratic president Salvador Allende and replace his government with the Pinochet military regime.
Over the next few months, we’ll be building the platform for the piece and finalizing the exhibition design towards its opening in late September. Many thanks to Lekha Hileman Waitoller, curatorial assistant, who has been managing this effort. She has an interesting new line on her resume.
–Heather Sealy Lineberry
Senior Curator and Associate Director