For artist Michelle Eistrup, her exploration of spaces and the interactions between human beings and animals began with a visit in 1996 to the city of Harar in Ethiopia."People and hyenas live close to each other there. That really struck me. No one was running. The hyenas would feed next to the people. They have been coexisting for many years," Eistrup said. Since then, some of her video art has focused on the proximity of the urban and the wild. Her latest video project has been developed in Trinidad.With support from the Danish Arts Council, Eistrup spent the months of July and August as an artist in residence at the Alice Yard space in Woodbrook, where she worked on both a light installation and a video. As the curator of Bridging Art and Text, a platform that seeks to create networks between Scandinavian writers and visual artists and creatives operating in Africa and the Caribbean, Eistrup also spent time meeting with Trinidad-based artists.
Eistrup is not a newcomer to the Caribbean. She was born in Denmark to a Jamaican mother and Danish father. She grew up in Jamaica, Paris and New York. Her new video is entitled Pitch Molded Animability and she has been busy in Trinidad shooting and editing in preparation for screening the work in September as part of the Rendezvous with Nature exhibition in Oulu, Finland. Segments of the video are shot in Senegal; Eistrup directed her lens at the donkeys there."When I go to a place, I don't start filming the people immediately. I follow the animals because they tell something about space and give entry to the people," she said.Her experience of the donkeys in Senegal raised for her key questions about spatial relationships and the bonds we can have with each other."I noticed that the donkeys were allowed to come into the stadium while the guys were playing football. That tells me the people are not concerned about being so precise about where an activity can take place. For me that questions the notion of boundaries. If there are no boundaries what does that say about the capacity of people to be open?"
It is this ability of animals to point the way to the possibilities of deeper human interconnectivity that is bound up in the meaning of the word "animability"."Animability is a word I made up. It suggests what animals can do. The word is about the possibilities of what animals have–of what they can teach us," said Eistrup.Animals found in Trinidad are also part of her new work. She has spent time in Chaguaramas, Caroni and La Brea capturing images of birds and snakes.She has also filmed the Pitch Lake, using its bubbling, malleable surface as a symbol of the potential for reshaping and molding human society in positive ways.Eistrup said, "Pitch is earth that is worth so much. It is a rich source of possibilities."For the artist, Pitch Molded Animability carries several layers of signification with its attention to sound, light and movement in space, but fundamentally the video considers, as she put it, "whether we are constructing societies in which we can live–societies that are for our benefit."Blocks away from Alice Yard, at the Augustus Williams Woodbrook Playground, chickens marched across the grass, while children spun on a merry-go-round and adults chatted on the periphery.
More Info: michelleeistrup.com