Turner Contemporary, Margate
From YouTube cats tickling the ivories, to Joseph Beuys trapped with a coyote, to octopus hoarders, this delightful show questions the notion that humans are uniquely gifted creatures
I’m not sure what Cory Arcangel’s video Drei Klavierstücke Op. 11 says about our relationship with animals – except that we think it’s funny when a cat plays the piano. So many people have posted so many YouTube videos of cats pawing the ivories that Arcangel has been able to edit a constellation of cute clips, so the cacophony of cats coheres into a brilliant staccato rendition of Arnold Schoenberg’s 1909 expressionist masterpiece Drei Klavierstücke. The pussycats stumble, crawl and gingerly tap keys in a montage that must have taken stupendous effort to create. What is the true art – Schoenberg’s composition, Arcangel’s re-creation of it, the YouTube videos – or the piano-playing of the cats?
Turner Contemporary’s delightful exploration of the borderline between human culture and the rest of the animal world is full of such mind-expanding moments. Cuteness and horror, love and cruelty nuzzle side by side. A series of noble photographic portraits of dogs by Charlotte Dumas is arresting. When you find out that all are veteran rescue dogs who comforted survivors and workers at the World Trade Center site in September 2001, they become more heroic still. These dogs have such kind faces. Do they know what they did, the part they played in history? They are studies in goodness.
Animals and Us review – four-legged insights give artists paws