My portrait subject is a raccoon visitor who has been coming to my window late at night, somewhere in the 12:30-2:00 a.m. window over the summer. I was bitten by a one as 3 year old. My earliest memory is the SPCA coming to round them up in cages to test for rabies so I wouldn’t have to get the hellacious shots. Despite the dominance of humankind, we somehow can’t completely excommunicate these creatures. They are seen as pests but are really quite fascinating (not to mention cute).
When I began documenting my raccoon visitor to my Facebook wall, a friend of mine posted a video of internet entrepreneur Kevin Rose throwing a raccoon that had attacked his dog down a stairwell.
Even though I know he was reacting in the moment out of concern for his beloved pet, the situation also made me think about what it is to be an outlaw, or unwanted by the dominant society. I asked myself, what was the actual difference between Kevin’s dog that was worthy of protection, and this wild animal that was trying to find it’s own way, too? More importantly, why was this violence against a living thing, justified or not, now being used as internet entertainment? What is it about the mediated spectacle of the real (the looping animated .gif is almost a work of art in it’s strangeness) that causes us to dismiss or forget that suffering of any kind isn’t really funny?
I wanted to make a piece that could serve as a reminder that it’s good to be compassionate, even in the face of danger and fear. And that the built in mechanisms of judgement and one-sidedness in our society need to be questioned, and the dualities and complexities exposed and examined.
I incorporated other elements that are meaningful to a raccoon’s happiness and welfare. I tried to ask how a Raccoons life might be if we hadn’t completely over-run the environment, forcing these creatures into a life of crime.
“OHAI” is what I imaging he is saying to me when he comes to my window, so this is the name I gave to him. Or I suppose it could be a her. I’m not going to ever know.