Exhibition identity by Molly Morphew & Julian Talarico

Small Talk, My Animal

Contributions to a digital exhibition on intimacy, memory, family, and the home, organised and curated by Molly Morphew via Remote Gallery during the COVID-19 pandemic. My curatorial text acted as the exhibition’s introduction, standing in for a welcoming ‘wall text’. I also contributed an original poem – commissioned as an artwork embodying the themes of the show – which appeared in the virtual space as both a text and an audio file of my reading. 

Introductory text:

Welcome to Small talk, my animal. Settle in, kick off your shoes, find a favourite spot – make yourself at home.

Here, eleven early-career artists share existing works with you. In a world addicted to the new, we have decided to look forward by settling inside. This is a playground: a gathering place, and a space freedom within limits, where we can all explore ourselves. By returning to earlier pieces, we  revisit our pasts, reconnect with our inspirations and our origins, and rediscover the buried things that are often revealing. Small talk, my animal is a homecoming, a place for escape and healing amid the domestic which, for now, has become our whole world.

In their contributions to Small talk, my animal, both Simone Steenberg’s and Molly Morphew’s works celebrate the sensual power of vulnerability. Damien Rouxel explores identity with attention to the crossovers of self-expression and performance through photography; in her paintings, Julie Paveglio draws on acute memories to find acceptance and release. Whether they offer studied statements or experimental works led by intuition, these artists’ positionings of experience, emotion and embodiment resonate further.

Small talk, my animal moves through alternate sites of intimacy. Subjects encounter one another, or themselves, anew. Nastaran Shahbazi’s lonely dreamers slip between darkness and fantasy, and Tarik Ahlip’s work poetically explores relations between different species’ bodies. Contrastingly, Fiona Glen’s text follows an interior enchantment.

Many of these works offer uplift, opening, or reclamation. In her gestural images, Maria Goes gives new life to routine, while Apolonia Dorabialski’s figures animate the mythical from the mundane – a romantic rebellion of the familiar. Robin Leverton’s absurd isolationist humour offers relief in simplicity, even as his recorded performances confront daunting socio-political structures. As Julian Talarico reveals the wonder already present in our everyday with multimedia installations constructed around compassion, Melinda Fourn reignites the sensory power of the discarded, allowing our ‘detritus’ to live again. Together, Small talk, my Animal leaves our homes – with the bodies, materials, and movements within – alive, vibrant, and transformed.

Listen to the poem here ︎

Quiet, now. The feeling fills my belly like a bowl of warm beads
humming. A buzz in the hot cup of my pelvis.

I press myself to the mattress, still. Safe and thrilling. Another muscle
murmur, a wriggle from my stomach to lower.

I bury my limbs and the soft spaces give. In the fold,
I am curled strong as a snail, as hidden as a fawn in a thicket.

The sun has slipped into the room, my eyelids. Like coal,
a dusty comet, I glow with secret cosmic crackle.
Here is my house, under scribbled skies and spiked stars.
Silhouettes swim in its windows, yolks slither yellow, and the knives
in the drawer lie together, silver and sleek as fish.

At night, I open my window and whisper back.

The paper of each scab curls up with a bite, and the world is risen
and smooth beneath. New things are born pink.

I pick at the ripping bits, peel at edging skin, pull at seedling hairs. I find myself in the tear
of tiny fibres. Up into the light, I sear where I push against myself.
Unfurling unsmooth, I am a seed, a tiger, a castle – rising.

Outside, the little ones push out in the morning, raising their soft pink faces.
The daisies pop themselves open, and I dig in the cakey soil, the ladders
of moss, to find ribbon and seed pod and coin, the switchblades tucked under wasps and bees.

At a shadow-rustle in the leaves, I crouch and turn,
creep the borders, electric under my own predator. My hungry creation.

A white picket fence is a ribcage to rattle. I run riot, I beat like a heart,
I pound – lunge and leap – never beyond the garden gate.

Nastaran Shahbazi’s Boy with a piercing, 2020 & Apolonina Dorabialski’s 
The time I got upgraded and cried eating duck, 2020