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I am a Dog Shitting, 2002

The Art of Thought, Angel's Gate LA, Cal, USA

Medium :- Various.


Dimensions :- Various.


"I have the experience when I see a dog in the park and I see them shitting, I can't help but go through the contractions.... of like the shitting motion and the straining and that sort of stuff ... I'm sort...sort of wondering ...and it's to do with the idea you have similar experiences, not with dogs, but with the idea that you can't separate yourself from something other than yourself..."NAD


I am a Dog Shitting What are the limits of empathy? Where do I end and the rest of the world begin? Is a human being porous or impermeable? These are the questions raised in Nicola Atkinson Davidson's bookwork, I am a Dog Shitting. The piece rests on an extraordinary premise, the artist finds that when she is out walking in the park and sees a dog in the act of excreting that her own body goes into involuntary spasm.

The resulting book work features a text edited from hours of interviews with the artists' acquaintances in which she asked each participant if they had ever experienced a similar moment of empathy. The video consists of the question posed and images of the artist's shadow as it falls on the landscape of a walk through her local park.

While it may seem like an art work celebrating the confessional, it does after all hinge on a confession that people may find at worst repellent or at best disconcerting, this work might, in fact, be seen as an interrogation of the very nature of confessional art. The individual voice of her respondents are not identified, their very uniqueness called into question, their views anonymous, heavily edited and interchangeable.

We might expect the question posed to act as a metaphor for human concerns: for empathy, sympathy, shared experience, the telling of stories and intimate confessions of a personal or emotional nature. But perhaps it contains something else: a reference to a reductive, biological interpretation of human behaviour. A suggestion that we may be pack animals as much as individual agents, or a collection of involuntary biological responses as much as emotionally complex human beings.

This is an art work about boundaries and limits. Where does the artist herself, begin or end. Is art about the mediation of other people's experience? Is art a channel for personal stories or political issues, for content or subject matter.

It also hinges on the reverse of this image, is the artist herself a sponge of sorts, absorbing other people's experience. Is the ability to empathise a skill or a burden with regard to art practice, or indeed daily life?
The image of the artists own shadow moving across the landscape (now it is as if she is made of leaves, now bricks, now grass) identifies her as a kind of shapeshifter, slipping in and out of material existence. Is empathy good or bad art? And as people does it make us more substantial, indeed more human, or less?


Moira J B Jeffrey Writer and broadcaster



Sponsors:- The National Endowment for Science, Techonlogy and the Arts


Nadfly Quick Links ImageI am a Dog Shitting

Angel's Gate installation


I am a Dog Shitting Book is available to buy through NADFLY distribution


I am a Dog Shitting



Secrets of the World

Angel's Gate installation


Download the pdf

I am a Dog Shitting


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