The Mimic, the Model and the Dupe

Mike Cooter exhibition inspired by Tadeusz Kantor


Until 6 May
New Walk Museum and Art Gallery
53 New Walk
Leicester LE1 7EA

An exhibition inspired by the work of Polish artist and theatre director, Tadeusz Kantor, will be opening at New Walk Museum and Art Gallery on Thursday 15th March. Radar Loughborough University’s commissioning programme has invited Mike Cooter to engage with the collections administered by Leicester City Council in his exhibition The Mimic, the Model and the Dupe. The exhibition draws influences from Kantor’s Anti-Exhibition as well as the research of Leicester-born naturalist Henry Walter Bates (1825-1892) into a form of mimicry in the natural world, which would take his name.
In his Anti-Exhibition of 1963, Kantor was concerned with revealing the structural processes which lead up to the creation of a work of art and its presentation, exploring the reciprocal relationship between objects of different class but equal status. This was influenced by his concept of ‘object theatre’ where objects have equal structural agency in performances as human actors.

Batesian mimicry describes a complex reciprocal relationship whereby a harmless species mimics the identifiers – markings, smell and behaviour – of a species which has made a successful defensive adaptation against a shared predator; the successfully adapted species being the model and the predator the dupe. Bates embarked on his historic research in the Amazon in 1848, the year before New Walk Museum opened. In recognition of Bates’ local heritage and later, the significance of his work, the museum acquired two small collections of insects, primarily butterflies, some of which will be utilised in this exhibition.

Taking influence from Bates and Kantor, Mike has selected close to fifty items that span across fine art, natural history, industrial design, decorative arts and material cultures; from a taxidermy dodo to golf ball moulds, a mechanical horse to bespoke scientific glassware, organised around and within new artworks produced for the exhibition. Through the design of the exhibition itself, the show examines both how the viewer is guided to read works and how they are physically guided through the exhibition space. For example, a series of bespoke guide rails modelled on railings designed by the Swedish architect and designer Sigurd Lewerentz will steer visitors around parts of the exhibition, functioning somewhere between artwork and infrastructure. This is part of the exhibition’s overall exploration of how objects in Leicester City’s collection both perform and reproduce themselves through their own agency and in symbiotic relationships with organisations that host them.

The Mimic, the Model and the Dupe forms part of a series of commissions titled The Object is Alive, which actively explore the role of object as discussed in Kantor’s writing and artistic outputs. It is part of a collaborative project with Radar at Loughborough University, in partnership with New Walk Museum and Art Gallery; funded by Arts Council England and the Henry Moore Foundation.

Find out more about Radar here

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