Artist Animal

Artist|Animal (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2013), in the “Posthumanities” series.  ISBN 978-0-8166-8067-2.

“I can think of no scholar better poised to offer innovative insight into how artists think about and work with animals than Steve Baker. With sensitivity and a rigorous ethnographer’s eye, he investigates the complex attitudes and approaches artists employ when engaging the animal subject. What makes this beautiful book so successful is Baker’s deep understanding of the nuance, intricacy, and contradictions in how artists work today.”
– Mark Dion

“Steve Baker’s Artist|Animal offers an eclectic selection of interview with, and meditations on, contemporary artists whose work centrally engages with nonhuman animal life. The text, so saturated with affect and presence, reads at times like a scholar’s love letter to those wrestling with human-animal relations through various artistic media … Baker, an esteemed academic and art historian, has long grappled with questions of animal ethics, art, and activism. His depth of knowledge permeates each chapter, while his writing remains surprisingly accessible.”
– Lauren Corman, Journal of Animal Ethics

Artist|Animal is a necessary addition to the growing human-animal studies area. Baker has been a supportive and crucial documenter of a growing body of art involving animals that few others in the art world have taken on as seriously and as carefully. He offers a relatively unique approach to the kind of art and cultural criticism he employs. Baker interviews carefully chosen representatives of a broad spectrum of artists to focus on ‘the complex interplay of their work and their words’ in exploring their practice. This, in itself, is admirable. Few cultural theorists … take seriously the words of visual artists. For many theorists, philosophers, critics and curators, artists often have been asked to be seen, but not heard. As Susan Sontag writes, ‘interpretation is the revenge of the intellect on art’. … Baker completed extensive interviews with the artists included in the book over many years, and these firsthand accounts by artists are invaluable records of this period in art history.”
– Carol Gigliotti, Humanimalia

“In two important ways, Artist|Animal echoes a growing number of texts emerging from the new field of artistic research … First, it foregrounds the serious and sustained engagements that artists can make with the sciences. Second, it recognises the value of working, as artists do, without a pre-formed idea of the outcome of a project. Essential to these positions is an emphasis on making, which gives the book an anthropological feel. Rather than accord primacy to the visual, the visual is here articulated as the outcome of the handling of physical and conceptual matter within specific environments. … Baker’s position … is not only credible but necessary. It is the logic of the materials and form enlisted in artist’s strategies that make artworks work and generate new sense, but this logic only comes to the fore if the position of the moralist is suspended.”
– Vanessa Corby, Visual Studies

“Being the theorist of (among other things, but most famously) ‘botched taxidermy’, Baker has already provided compelling evidence of the value of approaching even the most challenging and unfamiliar art with an open mind and a friendly spirit. In Artist|Animal he makes the case for that approach much more explicitly, and the slash in the book’s title ‘performs’ a commitment to ‘holding these two terms in juxtaposition, without specifying either the characteristics or the consequences of their alignment’. … Readers will be grateful for Baker’s patient and generous in-betweenness.”
– Una Chaudhuri, Animal Studies Journal