Captive elephants exhibit what biologists refer to as stereotypy, which includes rhythmic rocking, head bobbing, stepping back and forth, and pacing. Colleen Plumb traveled to over seventy zoos in the US and Europe to film this behavior, and distilled her footage into a video that weaves together dozens of captive elephants, bearing the weight of an unnatural existence in their small enclosures. She has installed guerrilla public projections of the video in over 100 locations worldwide, constructing photographs of each projection. Thirty Times a Minute (the resting heart rate of an elephant) explores the way animals in captivity function as symbols of persistent colonial thinking, that a striving for human domination over nature has been normalized, and that consumption masks as curiosity. The work sheds light on abnormal behaviors of captive elephants in order to bring attention to implicit values of society as a whole, particularly those that perpetuate power imbalance and tyranny of artifice. The presence of massive, intelligent, far-roaming, emotional animals such as elephants in urban zoos exemplifies contradiction and discordance, and public projections of their image onto urban walls and out-of-context surfaces adds to the layers of incongruity. Aware of the tremendous need to protect native habitat and its residents, this project contributes to the idea that sentient beings are not meant for spectacle or display.
The opening on February 28th will feature Plumb's new artist book, available for sale at the talk or on McCormick Press, as well as an artist talk