Cleveland State University
The Art Gallery at Cleveland State University


January 18, to March 2, 2013
Opening Reception Friday January 18th from 5 - 8pm
The Galleries at CSU

ANIMATOPOEIA: A MOST PECULIAR (POST MODERN) BESTIARY – a thematic exhibition of works by 19 internationally recognized artists in various media, exploring animal imagery in contemporary art, curated by Omid Tavakoli


This exhibition explores animal imagery in the works of 19 contemporary artists and is based on an obscure list of categories of animals that comes to us through Michel Foucault, the postmodern thinker, and social theorist, in a groundbreaking book on Postmodernist thought The Order of Things, by way of a quote by Jorge Luis Borges who claims that it came from a translation from an ancient Chinese encyclopedia.

The list goes as follows:

The list divides all animals into one of 14 categories:

  • Those that belong to the emperor
  • Embalmed ones
  • Those that are trained
  • Suckling pigs
  • Mermaids
  • Fabulous ones
  • Stray dogs
  • Those that are included in this classification
  • Those that tremble as if they were mad
  • Innumerable ones
  • Those drawn with a very fine camel hair brush
  • Et cetera
  • Those that have just broken the flower vase
  • Those that, at a distance, resemble flies

With this ‘most peculiar’ list of categories as a starting point, the exhibition curator Omid Tavakoli brings together a number of works that strangely echo the unfamiliar ideas presented in the ‘list.’ Whereas each exhibiting artist has a unique take on animals as a subject in their art, the exhibition as a whole presents a certain mood of postmodern anxiety and uncertainty that is reflective of the state of contemporary culture.

We live in a moment of history when the natural world seems both fragile and furious – imperiled, cornered, doomed; torn apart by climate change, invasive species, genetic engineering, culture wars, the clash of civilizations, depletion of natural resources, and global anxiety expressed in post apocalyptic scenarios. We expect mutants and zombies to populate our future and we have a keen sense that we might end up in the caves from which our distant ancestors emerged.

The works in this exhibition comprise the Animatopoæa, the Most Peculiar (Post Modern) Bestiary – a collection of works that will, it is hoped, edify, amuse, and engage, and bring some light to the darker recesses of the human imagination.

Robert Thürmer, Director, Galleries at Cleveland State University

Inluded Artists are:

  • Randy Bolton
  • Kate Clark
  • Stephanie Craig
  • Steve Ehret
  • Adrian Hatfield
  • Timothy Hawksworth
  • Laurietta Hogin
  • Susan Jamison
  • Jim Leach
  • JenMarie Zeleznak
  • Roberto Osti
  • Katy Richards
  • Anne Siems
  • Deborah Simon
  • Gamble Staempfli
  • Beth Cavener Stichter
  • Rob Tarbell
  • Julia Unkel
  • Pamela Valfer
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