While there's always discourse surrounding the kind of art being made at any given moment, far less often do we discuss the exclusivity of art's recipient species (unless it's robots). Thankfully, British artist Dominic Wilcox has shifted the target audience of his latest exhibition away from Homo sapiens, and instead towards Canis lupis familiaris, colloquially, the domestic dog. Play More, a two-day pop-up exhibition in collaboration with MORE TH>N, consists of a series of serious artworks aimed at stimulating and encouraging canine interactivity through a careful combination of biological research and aesthetic bravado.
A combination of Wilcox’s own work, as well as commissioned pieces by six other artists (Claire Mallison, Michelle Thompson, Nick White, Paul Blow, Robert Nicol and, Joanne Hummel-Newell) fill up the space. The exhibition surprisingly includes many paintings, a seemingly odd choice given the lack of interactivity inherent in wall works (how do you get a dog’s attention with a 2d image?), but different than your standard exhibition, these paintings are hung near the floor and are exclusively blue and yellow, the only colors dogs can see. Scenes of nature, chicken legs, and other imagery that the visiting dogs might recognize are scattered throughout the canvases in an effort to further engage the gallery goers.
Although the paintings are meticulous and calculated, Play More’s installations are the exhibition’s true magnum opus. An enormous ball pit in the shape of a dog bowl is filled with giant dogfood-colored balls, presenting enough visual familiarity to entice the pups to jump in. The most enticing and ambitious piece is undoubtedly the car window simulator, an interactive installation that allows dog attendees to stick their heads through a cutout of a car while a strong fan blows wind into their faces as if they are on the highway during a road trip.
But there is more to this piece than a fan and a fake car: “In my research, I found out that the reason dogs put their head out of car windows is to catch hundreds of different scents. That led me to make a giant fan with shelving for meat, fish, an old shoe, and socks,” Wilcox discloses to The Creators Project. “The scents are blown over the car window where the dogs poke their head through. I also made a mechanical moving landscape to recreate the scenery speeding by.” Nearby is a series of mounted pork legs on rising pedestals, a sculptural finish to a multifaceted exhibition.
Of course, despite the ingenuity, the question arises as to why Wilcox has organized an art exhibition exclusively intended for dogs. “I’ve always enjoyed looking at the world from an alternative perspective. Whether it’s reinventing shoes, cars, buildings, or in this case the experience of dogs, I always try to take what we think we know well and find a new, surprising angle to them,” tells Wilcox.
“Looking at the world through the eyes of dogs and attempting to create artwork that they would be interested in was a great challenge. On one level, it’s a funny and odd idea, but I think dogs can enjoy art, particularly when it’s interactive. Just like human art lovers, dogs love seeing and experiencing new things.”