Entering the world of Nathalie Rey, we immediately step into a hybrid bubble, where the boundaries between human and animal, the inside and the outside, are blurred and in motion: Rey’s work reflects the human condition as well as our co-existence with all living beings. Before being embedded in a society,we are singular individuals, with emotions, expectations, and feelings clashing with a social environment that demands conformity, creating an inner and outer conflict that drags us into a condition of alienation.
At a certain point,we reflect upon our inner selves, which leads us to question everything to which we've had to conform.
In this unique action-performance,“CAGED”, the artist becomes Pink Bunny, wearing a costume that serves as her second skin, representing her alter ego.
Together with her, there is a real bunny, brought forth through a courageous act of metamorphosis.
Comprisedof an undefined context and limited space -typical of Rey's artistic practice-
the fast-paced environmentdoes not diminish the intensity of the experience: amid everything and in front of everyone, there are only the two of them, enveloped in the silence of an attentive audience.
To gain a deeper insight into this performance, we must take a retrospective look, returning to Rey’s previous exhibition, “Rabbits” (2023). Through the short film “Pink Bunny's Travels,” curator Ayça Okay describesa world in which the artist investigated the dark depths of mass consumption and alienation, serving the rabbit character as a symbol of desire, as well as a reflection of our immersion in a hyperreal world, an eloquent representation of the intricacies of modern society.
This lengthy research has led Rey to a deeper evolution of her artistic experiment: facing what, in some way, mirrors her.
The encounter between Pink Bunny and a real rabbit is now necessary,almost uncontrollable. They will spend time together so the humanoid rabbit can re-discover a part of herself and be brave enough to show it to everyone else.
Here and now, the first-hand confrontation with the animal world triggers a therapeutic process of self-discovery that frees humans from the alienations in which contemporary society traps them. And, what better place than a laboratory to conduct the experiment?
We can try to envision the developments, pose questions, observe attentively, and share comments, but since experiments are inherently unpredictable, the outcome remains uncertain.
This performance is reminiscent of Joseph Beuys’s work in “I Like America and America Likes Me,” (New York, 1974), in which the artist sought to reconcile with the world beyond the human being by establishing a gradual space-sharing between himself and a coyote, an unspoken dialogue made up of glances or slight physical contact within an aseptic space.
The laboratory -a very human artifact- can be seen as a kind of confinement, becoming the cage where the rabbit is imprisoned. This raises an essential question: what would happen if the bunny becomes free from all humanity’s imprisonment mechanisms?
In the framework of this reflection, we are reminded of another inspiring artwork,
"Untitled (Human Mask)" (2014) by PierreHuygue, a video shot in the devasted scenario of
post-Fukushima Japan. There, a monkey, left to its own devices, wearing a human-like mask, in a deserted restaurant surrounded by a landscape ravaged by radioactivity, repetitively performs tasks for which it has been trained.
"Human Mask" represents a reversal of the human/animal perspective, encouraging us to contemplate our relationship with others and ourselves.
In a world that seems damaged, does Pink Bunny, like Hugye's monkey, exist primarily for its own self, in its own existence, or does it exist in an alienated, servile manner way for others?
This leads us to wonder,is she trapped in an oppressive view, or does she open our eyes to an alternative, optimistic perspective?
Nathalie Rey's performance presents a dystopian situation of confinement, not only on a social level but also on a deeper, psychological point of view.
In a double mirrors game (audience-rabbit and humanoid rabbit-real rabbit), the artist (Pink Bunny), and the real rabbit, both locked together, symbolize a society marked by multiple forms of alienation: economic systems, oppression, consumption, media coverage, virtual communities, social and religious conventions and more.
Through these abstractions, we are determined as individuals sharing a living space without really being able to connect with each other, or withourselves.
The performance creates a situation of multiple confinements -the rabbit in the cage, the artist in her performance, and also the viewers as voyeurs of the scene- that comments on the phenomenon of dehumanization typical of the globalized techno-liberal world.
The rabbit, acting as a mirror, embodiessociety's expectations of us and vice versa.
In this context, emotions emerge as the fundamental basis of our identity, and, by extension,
the identity of the society around us.
The question persists: who, or what is really captive?