Humans and animals are intertwined. The relationship and interaction between the two has long fascinated Dutch photographer and filmmaker Charlotte Dumas (b. 1977), whose work is currently on show at Huis Marseille, Amsterdam. Animals feature often in Dumas’ intimate portraits – relieved of the roles or symbolic functions imposed by humans. These creatures claim a pivotal and equally important role in the balance of nature, stimulating empathy in the viewer.
Ao, the artist’s first large solo exhibition at the gallery, gathers photographs and three short films dedicated to the Japanese remote island of Yonaguni and the critically endangered breed of native horses which live there. In Shio (2018), small indigenous horses wander free along the coast. A 10-year-old girl enters the scene, creating a gentle game in which she tries, without succeeding, to lead the animals into the sea. Yorishiro (2020) includes another figure, Dumas’ daughter Ivy, five years old at the time. She walks through an urban landscape, apparently extraneous to the surroundings, until she finds kinship with the island horses, a new family.
Ao (2021) has its first outing here. In the piece, Dumas’ eldest daughter Avis dances across the island in ballet shoes or on bare feet, traversing the rugged landscape amongst the horses. In front of a canyon, in which 18th century pregnant women were cruelly forced to jump to avoid overcrowding, the girl liberates the island from its horrific history. Earth, water, air and fire provide vital energies in the movements in space. Ultimately, the trilogy of films is tied together by the colour indigo, a natural pigment which stands for protection and disinfection. Blue appears across all three films, including textile creations by Yuko Kitta: threads of co-existence.
Huis Marseille, Amsterdam 11 December – 13 March
Words: Monica de Vidi
1. Charlotte Dumas, Ao#2 (2021).
2. Charlotte Dumas, Ao#9 (2019).
3. Charlotte Dumas, Ao#14 (2019).