All 1 entries tagged Hospitality

View all 8 entries tagged Hospitality on Warwick Blogs | View entries tagged Hospitality at Technorati | There are no images tagged Hospitality on this blog

March 19, 2010

Hospitality and the Rat: Irina Aristarkhova on the Art of Kathy High

Writing about web page

Warning: If you have a rat phobia, you might not want to read this entry!

This week, I went to see Irina Aristarkhova (Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies and Visual Arts at Penn State) giving a talk about “Hosting the Animal: the Aesthetics of Hospitality.” Aristarkhova was discussing the artist Kathy High and the artwork Embracing Animal (you can see her website here ). High created an installation using transgenic rats created for drug experimentation. High explains on her website:

Transgenic rats are different than wild type rats. Transgenic rats are rats that have foreign DNA inserted into their genome. This means one or more genes from a non-rat organism (i.e. human, fish, plant or jellyfish) has been added, through some tricks of modern molecular biology, to every one of a trangenic rat’s cells. Transgenic rats are walking around with non-rat expressible molecules in their bodies, minds and even in the cells that go on to make their children. Sometimes referred to as hybrids, cyborgs or chimeras, transgenic organisms are an interspecies mix of DNA, a targeted collage of two or more organisms. The most important thing to remember is that their alteration is permanent and inheritable. This means that their kids and their grandkids with have the same difference that they do.

To create her installation, High bought a number of transgenic rats and took them into her home. She looked after these rats with painstaking care, as she explains (again on her website):

I bought them to try and make them live as long as possible and to see if they could become healthy given their prior genetic conditioning. I will treat them holistically with alternative medicines such as homeopathy, environmental enrichment, also good food and play! Stress is one of the triggers for their conditions. I know because I, too, have autoimmune problems (in the form of Crohn’s disease and Sarcoidosis). Thus, I identify with the rats and feel as though we are mirroring each other. I feel a great kinship with them. When I see them feeling tired I recognize that kind of exhaustion. I know they need rest in a way that is total. If they ache when being touched, I understand this is from fevers. I also know they do not know how to behave as pets. They are not pets. They are extensions, transformers, transitional combined beings that resonate with us in ways that other animals cannot.

Aristarkhova finds High’s project interesting in relation to the ethics of hospitality espoused by Derrida et al. High does not see the rats as pets but ‘injured guests’ in need of care and she has an affinity with them because of their shared autoimmune problems. Aristarkhova compares High’s installation with The Temple of Rats, Karni Mata and with Jainist beliefs about respecting the life of nature . What seems to be most significant about Kathy High’s work is that in hosting the rat, an animal that has such an intense stigma about it, she pushes the boundaries of how we define hospitality and reformulates what it should include.


Further Reading

Aristarkhova, Irina and Faith Wilding (2009) ‘“My Personal Is Not Political?”: A Dialogue on Art, Feminism and Pedagogy’, Liminalities: A Journal of Performance Studies 5.2. Access available online (accessed 19 March 2010).

High, Kathy (2009) Embracing Animal website. Access available online (accessed 19 March 2009).


Facebook Widget

The Midnight Heart

“Zona de plagas donde la dormida come / lentamente / su corazón de medianoche” – Alejandra Pizarnik

Night ramblings of insomnia, and day ramblings for the sleep deprived.

Search this blog

September 2023

Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa Su
Aug |  Today  |
            1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30   



my read shelf:
Zoe's book recommendations, favorite quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

Red Room

Visit me in the Red Room

The Secret

Book Cover

Blog archive



Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter, #4)

RSS2.0 Atom

Comment Policy

Feel free to leave a comment on this blog, but I want to let readers know that I only accept comments that are linked to a valid homepage, e-mail or blog. I don’t accept anonymous comments. If a conversation is going to work, I want to know who it is that I’m talking to. If you really have a good reason for remaining anonymous, drop me a line instead by e-mail.

Most recent comments

  • Yes, you're right it does make you think and I know what he means. I also like the fact that it's su… by Sue on this entry
  • True, I hope so too, but it makes you think! by on this entry
  • He takes a very pessimistic view of things. I think the human spirit will prevail. I don't see the p… by Sue on this entry
  • Hi Zoe, do you know the glass dresses made by the artist Diana Dias Leao? They're not meant to be wo… by redbotinki on this entry
  • We're having some technical issues with this blog post, so please bear with me! by on this entry

Favourite blogs

Spanish Daily Word

Not signed in
Sign in

Powered by BlogBuilder