Steve Baker is a British artist and writer, affiliated to the University of Central Lancashire as Emeritus Professor of Art History. His writings since the 1990s have contributed to the development of the field of animal studies in the arts, humanities and social sciences, and his books include Picturing the Beast, The Postmodern Animal, and most recently Artist|Animal. In recent years he has resumed his long-lapsed art practice, and since 2010 his work has been shown in group exhibitions in the UK, USA, Australia and Europe. In 2014-2015 his work was included in Arche Noah, an extensive survey exhibition of modern and contemporary art on animal themes at the Museum Ostwall in Dortmund, Germany, where it was shown alongside the work of artists ranging from Picasso and Beuys to Abramović and Gursky. His joint exhibition with Mike Dodd, Trees and Other Objects, was shown in Norwich, UK in 2017. Other works from the Scapeland series have been exhibited in the Museum of Contemporary Sculpture in Orońsko, Poland, and at City Without Walls in Newark, New Jersey.
The Scapeland series depicts aspects of the natural and cultural landscape of the area in which I live in the east of England. It is a largely rural area with an unusually rich medieval heritage and, unfortunately, an abundance of roadkill on its quiet country lanes. The photographic juxtapositions within each piece in the series are constructed on the basis of some sort of visual “fit.” Sometimes there is a rhythmic continuity across the pairings; sometimes a kind of beauty. Some of the pieces happen to record the look of particular animals’ unnecessarily lost lives, and they do so with an awareness of other artists’ handling of similar subjects, but the series is concerned neither with narrative nor with commentary. Jean-François Lyotard used the term dépaysement to characterize the inescapable otherness that he saw as “a precondition for landscape.” The aim of the Scapeland series is to present something characteristic of this particular landscape simply by registering the material continuity of feathers, flint, earth, guts, leaves and stone.