This project has been commissioned by VIVID, Birmingham
Compton Verney presents the UK premier of Zoo, a compelling new sequence of video installations by Richard Billingham, which has been in development for the last two years.
The project’s origins lie in nostalgic memory, as Billingham was initially inspired by childhood visits to Dudley Zoo in the 1970s. The work has also been informed by John Berger’s essay, Why we look at Animals (1980), which examines the inherent dualism in mans’ historical relationship with animals.
Filmed in zoos across the UK, Europe and South America, the project explores the impact of confined spaces on animal behaviour in acutely observed detail. By focusing on the psychological space of the zoo enclosure, the series also captures the complexities of the viewing relationship between captive animals and their public audience.
The public zoo came into existence when animals began to disappear from ‘social life’ in England during the process of urban industrialisation in the nineteenth century. Zoo features both rare and more commonplace animals and questions the paradox at work in the loss of the animal’s natural habitat, with its simultaneous preservation in an artificial environment.
Billingham was born in Birmingham in 1970 and achieved wide-spread recognition after a series of photographs depicting his family were shown at the Barbican in 1994. He then utilised hi-8 video footage, resulting in the TV film Fishtank, commissioned by Artangel. In 1997 Billingham won the Citibank Photography Prize and his work was also included in Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection at the Royal Academy. He was shortlisted for the Turner Prize at Tate Britain in 2001.