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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 14 July 2018
16 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 14 JULY 2018 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM The hybrid paradox: both fascinating and disturbing Dr Evelyn Tsitas presents My Monster: The HumanAnimal Hybrid, an exhibition that brings us back in contact with the complexities of nature. Just be sure not to look away ANASTASIA TSIRTSAKIS that there is something disconcerting about animal-human hybrids. One need only look at literary representations such as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and The Island of Doctor Moreau by HG Wells. This fear is often embedded in the view that these creatures are both unnatural and monstrous, and essentially, should not exist. L Kate Clark, Gallant, 2016, fallow deer hide, antlers, clay, foam, thread, pins, rubber eyes, wire. IMAGE: COURTESY OF THE ARTIST But as with anything taboo, whether we like to admit it or not, there is always a sense of intrigue, and Dr Evelyn Tsitas can certainly attest to that. "The trouble with hybrids is that they disturb our moral compass, reminding us that we are animals, and animals are like us. When we look into its human eyes, we see ourselves looking back from the animal body we deny we inhabit," she says. This idea forms the basis of Dr Tsitas' PhD, and after years of research has culminated into an impressive exhibition. My Monster: The Human-Animal Hybrid, currently on show at RMIT Gallery, features artists from around the world that bring her dissertation to life through imagery; each piece looking at different cycles of the human-animal hybrid, from how it is conceived in the human imagination, to how it appears on earth in a fictional setting. "In Greek mythology it's usually in the guise of a god who comes down in the form of an animal and seduces somebody, and then begets a hybrid creature like the Minotaur, and then that creature is usually alienated. It's tragic," she says. "It has a very hard lifestyle; it's neither animal nor human, and I think we all see that; we can understand inherently that metaphor of not fitting in, of being the outsider," which Dr Tsitas can empathise with firsthand. As the child of migrants, with Greek and Baltic German origins, while she says she was embraced by her Greek relatives, she acknowledges the unrelenting frustration brought on by not speaking the language. While close to her yiayia, she could never have a proper conversation with her, which was “very upsetting”. “So I think inherently I felt something with the hybrid, I felt some sort of empathy with them; I understood that apartness," she reveals. It's been an interesting ooking back through history at humanity's response, it is clear road for Dr Tsitas, getting to this stage in her career. The origins of her interest in hybrid forms and the dark prospect of what people could turn into if they did bad things, stems from childhood. Her pappou exposed her to Greek mythology, while her oma would read her the Grimm fairytales. Her interest moved in a different direction after copublishing Handle With Care, stories on the experience of high-risk pregnancy. Drawn towards ideas surrounding the medicalisation of reproduction, as a former journalist with a great love of words, she decided to pursue a Masters at RMIT, delving into how fiction, namely dystopian science fiction novels such as Blade Runner and The Handmaid's Tale, deals with the subject matter. Despite her focus being on creative writing, Dr Tsitas soon found herself being invited to present her findings at bioethics conferences, highlighting the interdisciplinary nature of her subject matter. It was in 2008, at one such conference, that she first heard a paper presented on xenotransplantation – the act of animal parts being transplanted into humans - which she recalls as “the most amazing thing". What she heard that day would stay with her, and subconsciously, she started to draw from her visual arts background, giving way to visualisations of painter Peter Booth's artworks that would become a turning point towards her PhD. While Dr Tsitas admits embarking on a PhD was never about putting an exhibition together, by the end, she says she basically had a whole portfolio of artists. So when an opportunity arose earlier this year, thanks to acting director Helen Raymond, she says she jumped at the chance. As the first exhibition Dr Tsitas has curated, so far she describes the experience as "exciting" and "seamless" thanks to support at the university. Having received a positive response with a line around the block on opening night, she already has a second exhibition lined up, which will look at the future of humanity in a different context but "equally as provocative" she assures. While it is a thrilling experience to see her research come to life through imagery, she says it is the chance to engage a greater audience that is the most rewarding.
07 July 2018