E/S 3: Lie-In (Lion)

Erogate: Joanne Bristol

Surrogate (of the initial surrogate): Shannon Rose Riley

Corrogate: Ilya Noé

Joanne Bristol is a Canadian multidisciplinary artist currently working on her PhD dissertation titled Towards a Feline Architecture. Interested in troubling the traditional opposition between nature and culture as she investigates building and dwelling practices across human and non-human populations, Joanne’s main artistic collaborator for more than a decade has been her house cat, Sabre.

The piece that she offered consists in closely observing the movements and gestures of a lion at a zoo while relying exclusively on processes of attention and memory (i.e. without of the use camera or writing materials) and later entering a gallery “to attempt to mimetically reenact the gestures and spatial usage of the lion”.


I asked German artist Sarah Lüdemann to help relocate/translate Joanne’s (inter)spatial research on interspecies relationships from Winnipeg to Berlin. The pairing seemed fated: when Sarah was born, her mother almost naming her ‘Feline’. Unfortunately, Sarah fell ill two days before her scheduled performance, and as a result, performance artist and scholar Shannon Rose Riley stepped in as the “surrogate of the surrogate”, having only a few hours to prepare.


May 18, 2013 – At the Berlin Zoo, Shannon chose an old lioness and watched her intently for two hours and seeking out “face-to-face encounters”. At times, she caught herself mirroring the animal expressions. The lioness had been sleeping when we arrived, but it was close to feeding time so we had the chance to watch a complete movement cycle, from laying down to pacing, urinating, eating, playing, and going back to sleep again.



In an email written on the morning of the performance, Joanne mentioned that she started thinking about the work as operating much more as something that is practiced daily – like yoga and “less as a form of self-expression” that “anyone can do”.  Shannon tried to keep this idea in mind as she performed. For example, her knee and neck injuries required yet another layer modification of the “lion shapes”, so she decided it was more important for her to be honest with her own capabilities than to impose an external model of  “lion-like perfection”. 



Later, Shannon recalled becoming “deeply sad and melancholic” during her performance: “The two hour performance was both compressed, fast, and very drawn out. (…) It was exhausting. I became lethargic at moments, my eyelids heavy –my breath driving the movement of my spine, the flicker of my tongue. It was through performance that the scopophilic drives of zoo-space/time receded and I began to have a kind of situated knowledge about feeling lion sadness as a result of containment and display.”




(More details coming soon.)


In cooperation with: MPA-B 2013 LOGO

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