A foxhole in the bank at Gunnersbury Triangle Nature Reserve, West London.
I’ve been helping out with some of the education sessions at Gunnersbury Triangle, and while we were taking some primary school kids around the reserve in early March, pond dipping and looking for small frogs, Oliver who was leading the session, stopped at this foxhole. He put his hand into the leaves around the entrance at the bottom of the bank.
He pulled out a glove. You couldn’t see the glove at all until he pulled it out – it was buried right in the entrance in the leaves. One of the many used by the people working at the reserve doing conservation.
Found, chewed, placed.
And after showing us, Oliver put it back in the foxhole.
So what is it that makes the fox place the glove here? It has human scent on it, and is from the human world. It’s chewed, torn. Is it about secretly sharing the familiar? And the fox burying it at the very entrance to it’s den – to bring a sense/scent of ownership over the human world? To mark the glove as it’s own? To strike up relationship – we’re here together vulpes vulpes and homo sapien? A glove is a cover for the human hand – it’s hand-shaped. And the hand is a core point of contact in animal-human connection.
Joseph Beuys’s Coyote: I Like America and America Likes Me
In May 1974, the German artist Joseph Beuys spent three days with a coyote in a New York gallery for this pivotal piece of work – a complex response to and articulation of America’s relationship to its own history and context.
“Various objects were placed in the space—materials rich in potential for sculptural transformation and for thought, as in all of Beuys’s work: a length of grey felt blanket, a walking stick or crook, a torch, a pair of gloves, a musical triangle, some straw bedding, and 50 new copies of the Wall Street Journal delivered every day and placed in two piles at the front of the space.”
“At one point, for example, Beuys gives Little John one of his gloves to play with; metaphorically, he gives over his hand—that most human of signs— and Beuys knows full well that its smells and substance will be of great interest to a dog. The coyote sniffs at the glove, then with his eyes on Beuys, picks it up and walks discreetly away to a safer zone in the space. A thorough exploration of the glove’s olfactory information (including a comic moment when the coyote’s nose is lodged inside it) gives way to an instinctive, tactile, animal choreography. The coyote elegantly slides his torso from chest to groin along the floor on top of the glove, before flipping over to roll on it, on his back: a dexterous animal game of surfing on a human attribute, to mark it as his own.”
Extract from David Williams’ article: ‘Inappropriate/d Others: or The Difficulty of Being a Dog’. Published in TDR: The Drama Review 51:1 (T193) Spring 2007.
For further reading about the coyote and the significance of the work, see David Levi Strauss’ essay: ‘between dog and wolf’.
In 2004, artist Francis Alys made ‘The Nightwatch’ as part of a series of works in response to the city of London, in which a lone fox (called Bandit) was released overnight into The National Gallery in London, and was tracked moving through the Gallery with the institution’s CCTV cameras; a brilliant and perceptive installation, both political and poetic, reflecting the extraordinary complexity of relationships that the British have to the fox, and to animals, heritage, land and surveillance. Here is a link to a short section of video from the work on the Artangel site.