Valerie Hegarty’s Alternative Histories installation in the Brooklyn Museum’s period rooms are, as she says, a kind of return of the repressed.
This return is particularly true for the crows feasting on the table of the plantation house. Though you might be reminded of Luis Buñuel’s Viridiana or Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s La última cena (The Last Supper), you’re probably less likely to be reminded of Greta Alfaro’s In Ictu Oculi [“In the Blink of an Eye,” roughly], which I saw at the Conciergerie last year during their “Bêtes-off” show.
Like Hegarty, Alfaro attacks the distinction between dining and scavenging, living off the fruits of one’s own labors and living off others, working and gleaning, host and parasite, and a host of other hierarchical binaries that support human and other differences. For more on this, see my essay “Everything is Food,” published here.
Apart from the obvious political points, Hegarty also attacks art’s presentation of surface as stable and fixed. Tables are shot through with holes. Paintings melt and droop. Crockery breaks. Animal eaters invade. The skin of the pieces will fall.
Anything that pretends to have a smooth surface is always coming to be and passing away. At some point, changes become wounds, and wounds become death, on whatever scale, at whatever speed.
Hegarty and Alfaro remind us of what we all will give the crows and vultures, and what they themselves are always giving to other eaters.