Emily O’Leary and Bucky Miller: dogshow

Courtyard Gallery, University of Texas at Austin, June 6—October 2019

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Unsettling clichéd understandings of the dog as “man’s best friend,” artists Bucky Miller and Emily O’Leary explore the “significant otherness” of dogs and the speculative and imaginative worlds they produce. “Significant otherness, a term coined by the feminist philosopher Donna Haraway, refers to the paradoxical combination of intimacy and strangeness that characterizes the companionate, co-evolutionary relationship between dogs and humans. Dogs are significantly different than humans in their biology and their perception of the world, yet their existence is resolutely intertwined with our own.

In dog show, we encounter an eclectic selection of objects about dogs, but also a range of approaches to what a dog is, who a dog is, and how a dog is. O’Leary’s textiles illustrate a mythopoetic realm in which the power imbalance between human and non-human animals falls away. In her fragmentary, evocative scenes, humans and dogs interact absent the hierarchy of master and pet, domesticator and domesticated. Miller likewise unleashes the image of a dog from its usual conventions, using the impersonal gaze of the camera to capture their presence. In his photographs, dogs appear both intensely present and mysteriously unknowable. Together, Miller and O’Leary frame the dog as both a singular figure in the human imaginary and a physical, material being with its own agendas and its own consciousness.