Lisa Roet | When I laugh, he laughs with me

19.11.14 to 20.12.14


For over two decades, Lisa Roet has won acclaim for her powerful, often disorienting investigations into the complex interface between humans and our simian relatives.  Drawing inspiration from a myriad of sources including residencies at major international zoos, field study of apes living in the forests of Borneo and most recently, the artist’s own heart surgery, her multidisciplinary approach challenges fundamental theories relating to evolution and creationism, language and communication, science and art.  Notwithstanding the potentially political nature of her subject however, Roet never indulges in heavy-handed didacticism.  To the contrary, her oeuvre is infused with refreshing verve, candour and an inescapable sense of mystery, poignantly highlighting how inextricably linked humans and primates are amid the messy uncertainty of biology, nature and culture.


With the ape her muse. Roet encourages us to reflect upon prevailing attitudes towards these relatives with whom we share 98% of our DNA – the lingering anxiety with our evolutionary past; our use of apes for scientific and entertainment purposes; the way we in which we project onto apes our own fantasies and culture, while at the same time assuming they are somehow ‘inferior’.  For all modernity’s attempt at superior rationality and modern art’s resolute denial of animals and nature, Roet forcefully confounds our identity and sense of difference.  Employing her signature bronze, photographic and drawing practice – as well as her new exchocardiogram and MRI images- When I laugh, he laughs with me reveals another uneasy dimension to the controversial debate over our kinship with primates.  Inspires loosely by the real-life relationship between a gorilla and female spectator at Rotterdam Zoo – and betraying obvious affinities with the story of King Kong immortalised by Hollywood – this latest body of work is arguably among the artist’s most compelling yet, exploring biological, cultural and visual parallels between the ape/human heart, notion of love and the ‘physicality’ of romance.


Veronica Angelatos