Samantha Sweeting
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Bestilalia (I never imagined life without you)
2007
Performance installation, 3 days
Shippon Gallery, Dartington College of Art, Devon.
Donkey head made by Nichola Kate Butland.
Camera by Samantha Sweeting, Blaise Merino, Claire Leona Apps, Lisa Newman, Sofia Greff.



Bestilalia (I never imagined life without you) is a tender exploration into cross-species metamorphosis and breastfeeding, which works with the erotic as a meeting place for love and loss. It takes the shape of a performance installation, incorporating sound, image, text and objects alongside live task-based activity.

The female body is experienced as a site for performance and a generator of broken narratives that seek to interrogate representations of femininity and sexual difference. My body conjoins with animal bodies bringing about a tender interchangeability between human and animal, informed by myth, fairytale, religious iconography and natural history museum. Beauty and Beast coincide, and the transformation into animal form is experienced as a movement towards ‘nature’ and a process of becoming-feral.

Like Cleopatra who bathed in asses’ milk to retain her beauty, I sit in a bath of sorrow, wearing my Donkeyskin disguise to pluck a dead pheasant. I am a storyteller, weaving together fact and fiction in a delicately macabre form of child’s play, using the animal as a vehicle through which to speak of intimate melancholy and erotic tenderness. It protects me and I nurture it in return. I am a Mater Dolorosa weeping tears of milk, inviting the viewer to eat and drink from my bestial body.


Read extended Bestilalia statement.



Trailer for Bestilalia (I never imagined life without you), 2007.
(Full length film is 20 minutes.)
Camera and editing by Claire Leona Apps.







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