My studies aim to investigate the cultural manifestation of a human-animal paradox rooted in the idea that we live in a society that simultaneously wants to embrace animals as fellow creatures and also be able to exploit them for its own pleasure.
This paradox is inextricably bound within Dutch artist Katinka Simonse’s performances as the fictional “Tinkebell” – a public persona who is completely naïve in her actions and thus is able to sidestep the arbitrary lines that border the human-animal social relationship. Her performance pieces My Cat Pinkeltje (2004) and Save the Males (2007) provoked harsh reactions from a public that sanctions the same sort of violence daily within the secret confines of factory farms, slaughthouses, and experimental laboratories. Their protests were directed at Tinkebell for drawing hidden animal exploitation into the spotlight of the public sphere, in the artist’s attempt to uncover the hypocrisy involved in such reactions. This mirrors the most common method of animal rights activism – making the invisible visible – so why is it that the performance artist is able to gain more attention?
The answer seems to lie within the creator’s alter-ego, for one would presume that if the artist were to simply turn herself into a “real-life” animal rights advocate, she would simply be “ignored” and “alienated” from the society she seeks to criticize, much like most hardcore activists are generally marginalized by the public majority. Tinkebell’s naïveté gives her the freedom to distance herself from the public and attack its general beliefs in a way that the artist, as a member of that very public, seemingly cannot do. But within that fictional position, is she really free to do whatever she likes? Her performances have involved real violence against living creatures and inevitably the question arises: can the artist actually free herself of all responsibility when her social “performance-activism” creates very real, and possibly bloody consequences?