An Interview With The Dog aka: artist Gayle Gorman

" A lot of people have been asking about the dog. Ok. the story with the dog is that I wanted the presence of a forlorn, tossed-away, scruffy-looking, beat-up and neglected giant stuffed animal; a depository of sorts for our sorrow and our loss. It had to be somewhat human for that to happen. Carin had been talking about how children sometimes react to giant stuffed animals at parades with fear and how much this idea intrigued her. We both had wanted to do something performative and the connection was then made".

So were we supposed to be scared of these animals in the precinct?

" Not necessarily- I think that the range of possible emotions is really interesting. The main thing was to point out the difference in reactions of children and then of adults, and especially of adults in the presence of children. Like, are we supposed to laugh and play along, or are we not getting something, or just plain "what the fuck is this giant stuffed animal doing here, this is absurd!". If its a parent with a child, the parent uses the kid to explore the situation and they keep their distance. And if a kid's scared, thats just not the appropriate response and something must be wrong with them. So whats up with the double standard... the double standard that kind of runs throughout the show?

Why did you want the visitors to first encounter the dog via the surveillance camera in the large closet?

First of all, I thought that the idea of surveillance absolutely had to be included in a show set in a police precinct. There was just no way that that wasn't going to happen. Then I began thinking about the advantages of viewing a situation on a tv screen, of it being mediated in this control/power-related way, of the state of being-viewed as well. Putting the dog in the farthest reaches of the dark, cold basement was a bit cruel, playing on easy sympathies, so I wanted to make the situation as uncomfortable experientially for the viewer as possible. I didn't want to just show a picture, I wanted it to be more immediate and tangible so the hit would be harder, deeper, and more real. I wanted to indict them AND to offer them a chance to feel some 'authentic' compassion.

Seeing the dog in the corner on the tv screen before seeing it in real space was disorienting but still very safe.

Exactly. Safe because there's that familiar image from tv and movies of the surveillance screen. This act of looking reflects a desire to know. When the viewers then wander down into the basement, theres still quite a bit of space for them to go through until they get to the back room with the dog. By the time they enter that room and see the dog in the corner, its shocking and startling. I watched people exclaim out loud: "Oh my god!" or "Oh shit". And, what's even more interesting, there were some people who refused to look at methedog! They would see and then look away, scurry to the other side of the room and look at the map on the wall, then sneak a furtive glance my way. It was very bizarre.

Did people try and talk to you?

Yes. But my role was to be silent. It was obvious to a bunch of people that the dog was indeed one of the artists, for some who knew me my trainers gave me away. When people were looking at me I tried to remain as still as possible. I would shift position only when people weren't looking at me. When the room was empty, I'd wave to the camera. I had no idea, though, that Carin-as-the-pink-bear was waving back at times in the surveillance room!

My impression in watching people come back upstairs was that they were generally reacting in a very emotional way and that their encounter with the dog left them somewhat shaken. Did this surprise you?

Yeah, I suppose it did, but in a really exciting way. I mean, its always been a challenge that I've taken quite seriously, that is to elicit an emotional experience with the art that I do, and to try not to do it in a manipulative, predicatable, or heavy-handed way. I think that, despite what people say, they really don't want to be moved by the art they go to see. In watching how people act in a gallery or a museum, I'm always a bit dismayed to see how quickly they go over things. They're looking but not seeing, thinking that they've already seen it all. A lot of this comes from apathy and boredom and the general loss of desire. Maybe its just that I'm surrounded by other "art people" and they seem to be a generally complacent and cynical all-knowing bunch. Too much book-learning.

But encountering the dog was, as you say, experiential- because it occurred on this level you definately had surprise going for you.

Yeah, most people don't expect their art to live and breathe. It was strange how almost everyone reacted with discomfort, but that the reaction than to the discomfort was so different. For example, these 3 boys came in, all about 13 or so. They were snickering behind their hands and jabbing each other with their elbows, all the while keeping a good distance from me and huddled together. One boy started inching forward, turning to his buddies for encouragement as they egged him on. they were saying, "Kick it, kick it", and he kept coming. I stayed perfectly still, so there was that extra special uncertainty if I was even alive. When he got real close, i jumped up and they all ran screaming from the room. Throughout the next couple of hours he kept coming back and looking at me, but he wouldn't come near.

So some people wanted to hurt you. What other kinds of reactions did you get?

Some people were openly dismayed and full of sympathy. Hands up to mouths. Shaking heads. A couple of people petted me on the head.