text: shreyas karle / annotated by: aveek sen
Title: Domestic Animals
Domestic Animals is a reflection re-presentation of the artist’s home-space where the household objects become attitudes & gestures by virtue of being liberated from their duties while still having to performing them. Jean Baudrillard, in The System of Objects, defines describes household objects as being symbolically castrated, similar to the neutering of domestic animals or pets. Shreyas Karle’s practice over the past
 What happens to a home when it is reconfigured as a ‘home-space’?
Does home-space relate to home as cartography does to geography/topography, i.e. as the map of a country does to the experience of having lived in it, inhabited it, as a citizen or a foreigner, an alien? Would a citizen and an alien draw different maps of the same terrain?
Is this the difference then between home and house: the insider inhabits a home, while an outsider enters a house, looks around in it, and hesitates at the threshold of certain rooms? Which are the rooms, cupboards, cabinets and drawers that the outsider, however intimate with the insiders, would hesitate to look into?
Is it just hospitality or something less innocent, more complicated, more perverse, more difficult to put in words, that makes the householder open up his or her home to outsiders?
Does privacy engender voyeurism? What is the relationship between exhibition-making and exhibitionism? Home, studio, gallery, museum: what if these distinct spaces get confounded? Where then does living end and looking begin, function end and form begin, or life end and art begin?
‘Attitude’ has moved, over the last few centuries, from the realm of aesthetics to that of sociology. In painting and sculpture, it originally denoted the disposition of the (usually human) figure, frozen into shape or form. Then, it moved into the language of fashion (where it still lingers: think of Madonna’s “Strike a pose” in “Vogue”), and finally, in everyday parlance today, attitude stands for perceptions and judgments that often are not articulated in so many words but are manifested silently through expression, tonal inflection or behavior.
 Another word that signals an intention (usually humane, even magnanimous) without that intention being acted out fully, gathering around itself an aura of semi-ritualized mystery around it. A gesture remains suspended between theatricality and sociality.
 What, one might wonder, is the meaning of this ‘liberation’ – to be freed from function, yet be captive to form? What kind of work do works of art do? Being perfectly useless while managing to be coveted enough to be displayed, collected and looked at: isn’t that hard work too, worthy of ample compensation? Are objects, then, the ultimate masochists, courting objectification and crying out in their state of beautiful captivity, “The only horror is not to be used.” Think of the abjection of waste-bins in public spaces, often in the shape of nursery animals, with “USE ME” writ large on them. Are they imploring us to be civic or to be cruel? Is the civilizing process necessarily cruel?
Should object be only a verb and not a noun? Where would that leave art, or domesticity? Wasn’t it Engels who reminded us that the origin of the modern family lay as much in domestic slavery as in the consolidation of private property?
 If ‘attitude’ goes back to the coldness of marble in Grecian statuary, ‘object’ – in Baudrillard – is a more passionate word with regard to the householder and the collector, evoking a kind of love with all its pathos-laden as well as proprietorial connotations. In his analysis of the homestead, together with its inhabitants and objects, this leads naturally to the idea of the domestic animal as somewhere between objecthood and personhood. “For man,” he quotes from Maurice Rheims’ La vie étrange des objets, “the object is a sort of insentient dog, which accepts his blandishments and returns them after its own fashion, or rather which returns them like a mirror faithful not to real images but to images that are desired.” (Étrange is both strange and alien, like Camus’
few years persists in rendering domestic objects as metaphorical museum settlers, dissolving their domesticity and usability, by leaning more towards form than towards function. They are in a perpetual play of producing atmosphere through arrangement. This is ritualized, until play itself becomes function.
mysterious outsider, and note that Baudrillard finished writing The System of Objects in 1968, surrounded by civil unrest, especially among university students and women.) Being unsexed is the price that domestic animals must pay in order to win the emotional security of being turned into pets, and so that they can cohabit with one another and with their human masters without offending the hygiene of a minimalist home. The neutering of pets is not only homologous to the turning of household objects into objects of art by rendering them useless, but Baudrillard insinuates that castrating domestic animals also serves to mitigate their owners’ castration anxiety: “This is a part that all the objects that surround us also play to perfection.” Note how the language of performance and of play inevitably creeps in here, investing the passivity of objects with sly agency and cunning.
 practice: What is the history of the incorporation of this word into the lexicon of contemporary art, lending to the work of the artist the chill of a curiously medical sterility? The artists as GP, the curator as paramedic, the critic as mortician. It makes one wonder about the hygiene of ‘contemporary’ art – its investment not only in the abstract, the conceptual (as opposed to the figurative) and the impersonal, but also in the minimal and the antiseptic; its air-conditioned, white-cube unease with the messiness and contagion of mortal bodies, of decaying flesh, of dust and dirt and humidity, making museums and galleries resemble hospitals and abattoirs. Does the rise of this word have something to do with the fetishization of absence? If so, then what is it that must be absented, cleaned up and cleaned out, for art to be disinfected into contemporaneity?
Home, studio, gallery, museum: at which point in this increasingly discontinuous continuum do life and work end and practice begin?
Are we allowed to bring domestic animals into the gallery or museum?
 settlers: Taken literally, a word that is innocuous enough, meaning objects that have been brought over from somewhere else to find their place in a new kind of space specially assigned for them. But I looked up settler in the Concise OED, which defined a settler as an “early colonist”. And here is Merriam-Webster, sense 2:
"someone who settles in a new region or colony
// the first settlers of New England
Examples of settler in a Sentence
settlers learning to live in peace with the natives in 1889 Jane Addams, in an effort to provide Chicago's latest wave of settlers with much-needed services, founded the city's first settlement house
Recent Examples on the Web
The metaphorical mixing pot of influences, due to the country’s political and colonized past, includes Zulu warriors, Dutch settlers, British colonists, and Indian laborers.— National Geographic, "Gordon Ramsay Adventures in South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal," 20 May 2020
With the arrival of European settlers, though, the animals were trapped to near extinction and much of their native habitat was destroyed.— oregonlive, "Pacific fisher again denied endangered species protection in Oregon," 19 May 2020
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'settler.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors.”
The story of moving objects from one place to another – of arrangement, placement and displacement, of location, dislocation and relocation – throws up a word in which the domestic, the aesthetic, and the political converge, and in no less a place than the museum.
A working desk from the artist’s studio, upon which this body of work was conceived, plays a central role. A morbid but serine green tablecloth (largely used in hospital recovery rooms) further camouflages the desk and allows the trivial everyday/quotidian gestures of the objects to be displayed and turned quasi-ritualistic. The two folded blankets (inside-out next to outside-in) on the table, stare at each other’s unequivocal resemblance. This dispersed, edited and transfigured domesticity settles on distinct yet synchronic planes where every object subtly displays either its birth defects or adult eccentricity. Many a time, the objects generate a play involving the artist’s five-year-old daughter’s purposeless collection. The mirror, the terrazzo and the cup-stand reflect her diachronic presence, complicating/unsettling the artist’s sole authorship and curation of the works. The project provides an insight into the gestural capacity potential of the domestic semiotic system. It identifies a silent violence that is taking place within itself, in all its stillness, while one is looking – as if one is waiting for a grander and overwhelming performance to begin.
 The idea, image and actual objecthood of this central table, with the arrangement of garment, coverings and a small object on it, embodies both the meanings (literal and perverse, see note 6) and the limits of the word, practice.
This table is at once a
desktop (the work of thought)
working surface (the work of making)
dining table (domestic work)
center-table (domestic and curatorial display)
operating table (medical/therapeutic work)
dressing table (folding, covering, clothing, unclothing)
bed (resting, sleeping, mortality)
art object (aesthetic and symbolic work)
container (folds up into a box for transporting the work)
cage (metaphorically, for moving domestic animals)
four-legged beast of burden
In its various yet simultaneous guises, the table straddles the entire spectrum of idea, form and function, from the practical and the domestic to the spectacular, the symbolic, the performative, the therapeutic, the museological and the numinous.
 Serine, perhaps inadvertently, is a portmanteau word that combines serene and sterile; it should not be ‘corrected’, therefore, into either.
 The apparent purposelessness of the child’s collection of seemingly random objects, organic as well as artificial, is radically distinct from the adult artist’s willed transformation of domestic objects into formalized elements of the work by divesting them of their original function. One can only speculate as to why a child chooses to pick up certain objects in order to keep arranging and rearranging them, or what these objects ‘mean’ to her, both in themselves and in her relationship with the world. But one thing is certain, that the adult artist (in this case, the child’s parent) conducts his own traffic with objects toward another kind of meaning- and value-making – even when he is inspired by the child’s play to keep doing so in his, and sometimes in imitation of her, way. The question remains, of course, as to who is imitating whom, and to what end?
and spat out its interior
The terracotta house hides behind the table after spitting out the display objects tapped on its bottom end to prevent further excretion.
 Spitting out and excretion: note the conflation of the oral and the anal. Baudrillard might throw some light on the relationship between this physiological conflation and what he calls “the will to design”: “Everything has to intercommunicate, everything has to be functional - no more secrets, no more mysteries, everything is organized, therefore everything is clear. This is not the old slogan of the house-proud: a place for everything and everything in its place. That obsession was moral, today's is functional - and explicable in terms of the faecal function, which requires absolute conductivity in all internal organs. … [I]f hypochondria is an obsession with the circulation of substances and the functioning of the primary organs, we might well describe modern man…as a mental hypochondriac, as someone obsessed with the perfect circulation of messages.”