Dog Performance

An Alsatian dog bounds across a confined gallery space chasing a stick. This was a disturbing and poignant experience for the audience especially as the dog became more and more frustrated  as the stick was held back by Terry Duffy controlling and taunting the dogs, frustration. This powerful and politically motivated performance acted as a metaphor for what Duffy saw as the artists naive obedience and trust in the Arts Council of Great Britain in contrast to what he saw as their demeaning disrespect for the artist and their work.   Duffy wrote at the time, “I was exhibiting at the Air Gallery London UK and for somewhere to stay I was ‘flat minding’ for a friend. The only draw back was that the flat also included an Alsatian dog, but I don’t like dogs and dogs don’t normally like me. As needs must I persisted and took the dog out every night for its constitutional. The dog was so desperate for attention and grateful for its regular walk that we bonded and, as I had never had a dog before, I became more and more fascinated by its loyalty, fidelity, its potential stupidity and the power I had over it. Combine this with my burgeoning interest in Art funding and a then national crisis involving restrictive changes in Arts Council funding for artists, I began to devise a performance involving the dogs unquestioning trust.”  Further investigation provided Duffy with a copy of the new and unnecessarily complex Arts Council’s application form for artists applying for even minor funding. The resulting performance focused on the relationship between artists and the Arts Council. The dogs obsession to chase for a stick time after time was a metaphor for the carrot dangled by the Arts Council and the artists willingness to apply for funding time after time with little result other than anger and frustration.  During the performance Duffy read aloud the application form emphasising the banal and often unnecessary and demeaning long list of questions. He would pause every few lines and holding up the stick would gradually taunt the dog to utter frustration and potential aggression.

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