I could speak to horses first. Then came the rabbits, the dogs, cows, chickens, and goats; the coyotes, warblers, spiders, goldenrod, and the now-absent ash trees.
A language is quietly embedded in the ways animals touch one another. Like humans, other animals create and maintain inter and intraspecies bonds through touch—licking, rubbing, scratching—gestures that generate marks, leave traces, and form conversation of their own. The installation is a confluence of this sensory expression, a syntax in which the individual traces of reciprocity stand as morphemes: building blocks, the smallest meaningful units in this language. The tactile nature of these gestures is then translated to material: twine, salt, fur. Witnessing these traces, both unassuming and ephemeral in nature, requires patient listening and meditative looking. With beginnings in an ongoing photography series that documents the visual residue of intraspecies bonding, Susurrus ruminates on the humble intimacy within reciprocal interspecies relationships.
Ruth K. Burke is an animal studies scholar and interdisciplinary artist who studies interspecies kinship as specific to small scale farming in the midwestern United States. A lifelong equestrian, her initial experiences within a female-centric barn space cultivated the foundation for feminist, time-based work. Burke collaborates with farm animals and their caretakers; in practice, she combines scholarly and field research, collaboration, performance, sculpture, video, and sound. Burke has given talks, completed residencies, and exhibited work nationally and internationally. She currently teaches in the School of Art at Bowling Green State University. www.ruthkburke.com