In the video work Puppy Play, interpersonal and inter-species relationships are tested in a clearing in the forest. In the film’s initial sequence a group of children dressed in fur are encountered in the woods. They tumble around and lick each other, growl, yelp, and crawl with sticks in their mouths. In the second sequence, the perspective is displaced and the same scene is shown from further away, as if the viewer is sneaking up or spying on the flock from behind branches. The children make their way to a clearing where a wolf-like creature rests. There, they settle down, seemingly for the night. The work prompts a sense of ambivalence and toggles between sweet romance and a scene of terror, as if it follows on the heels of a catastrophe where the children have been forced to fend for themselves. Puppy Play prompts questions concerning belonging, disaster, and trust with regard to biology and propagation. The voyeur’s potentially threatening gaze is addressed in relation to the power imbalance between children and adults, as well as between humans and animals. The work springs from Johannessen’s interest in the limitations of biology and belonging. It is also a work developed from two deeply personal experiences that coincided in time. Under dramatic circumstances the artist became a mother to an infant to whom she did not give birth, upon which her body responded immediately by starting to lactate. Simultaneously her dog gave birth to stillborn puppies. In these challenging circumstances the definition of family and belonging was radically expanded for both Jonhannessen and her dog.
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