Of Woman and Dolphin Love
The first in our series on interspecies love, Hala el Mo'rif considers animal statuary and the transcendent power of nonhuman relations after a walk with Lisa Chuckbucket,Susu Laroche,& Roisin Agnew
Whilst on a state-sanctioned derive with Ms Chuckbucket, which had designs of being a tour of London’s most deranged animal statues starting with the LSE penguin, an ASBO worthy sight was beheld. ‘Girl with Dolphin’ adorns the Northbank by Tower Bridge and depicts a nude female frolicking with a dolphin. Totally taut with glee, she pushes her fingers gently into its torso, a gesture which recalls the depictions of Jesus’s wounded side post-crucifixion - the hand of another often nearby, threatening to prod, the temptation of imminent guts trivialising the preceding themes of faith and devotion. A gentle caress of a wound or a casual game of tag? Is this statue an allegory to Jesus’s suffering and if so, is this gravity-defying girl Mary Magdalene?
You might remember the tale of Margaret Howe Lovatt, ‘The girl who talked to dolphins.’ Five weeks into a science experiment funded by NASA and the Navy, in which dolphins were being given LSD, she famously began a sexual relationship with a dolphin named Peter. Subsequent sad and twisted events fall into the categories of Bestiality, Animal Abuse and - our old favourite - Government Funded Insanity. Is this statue a monument to Lovatt and her benevolent sexual deviance? To woman and dolphin love? To bestiality? Will women and dolphins ever be able to love each other freely, without government intervention?
The dolphin killed itself.
There is, in fact, a matching statue on the other side of the city in Chelsea. ‘Boy with dolphin’ created about a year later by the same artist, David Wynne, is more naive, less thought-provoking and generally as insipid as his original intentions probably were.
My hysterical interest in these statues won’t drag me down to the slanderous lows of, say, the person who desecrated Copenhagen's Little Mermaid statue with the words “RACIST FISH” last summer, but rather to consider other bronze-cast celebrations of human and non-human love.
Oslo is home to Vigeland Sculpture Park, which contains 212 statues by Gustav Vigeland, where, amongst a lot of angry babies (please google this), we find even more perplexing monuments to interspecies passions to add to our collection.
Bronze and granite harmonise to depict the tender embrace between man and an unidentifiable reptile. The gaze is fixed, the embrace tight. Deep passion or total devastation? I refute that they intend to consume, and yet, isn’t an element of passion the urge to consume another? The man's ass rests on the curled up tail. The creature nibbles at his neck. Intimacy is infinite.
Another statue depicts the throes of passion, this time between man and a creature that closely resembles a prawn. With total submission the man looks up towards the heavens, basking in the light they pour down on him and certainly soaking up every last morsel of pleasure, as he’ll surely be going to hell for this.
It's understood that humans evolved from and share almost identical genetic genomes to dolphins, who happened to evolve into very reptilian-looking creatures (which we eventually followed). What the creatures of these statues share is a mutual presence in the chain. Maybe they were all at the same party once! Are these monuments an allegory to the confrontation of man and his previous evolutionary incarnations? A self-love which addresses past life-form regression?
Here’s my favourite - a classically dressed wench being devoured from behind by a large reptilian sea horse. She looks down with glee at the arm that restrains her, the creature's eyes boggle over her shoulder and down to her bared breasts, his tail moving up the front of her dress. Whatever sexual ambiguity the other two statues retain no longer applies here. It's curious that she is clothed, whilst the men of the previous sculptures are not. Her modesty is sabotaged by the taboo of indecent exposure, which arguably can be far more erotic than the generous sincerity of a full nude.
The illicit love affair in Andrzej Zulawski’s film Possession springs to mind - Isabelle Adjani dumps both husband and lover to elope with an alien octopus creature. It's a tale that resonates really heavily with the terror of this monument to interspecies romance, which is not exactly uncommon to the highly moral fairytale genre.
The ‘princess and the frog’ and ‘Beauty and the Beast’ both wield acts of compassion as curse-breakers within the trope of benevolent female meets heinous male-identifying curs’ed creature. But the classic kiss of the princess and the frog was originally an act of violence - the curse is broken when, in a fit of rage, the princess throws the frog at the wall. Other versions have him beheaded or burned. And so it is a fit of passion rather than an act of compassion which breaks the spell.
In the long-documented history of human and non-human encounters these statues and allegories ask us to open our minds to the passion of interspecies relations... After all, they may prove to be far more satisfying than the insipid mortals of one's own bodycount.
- Hala El Mo’rif