> > > > Judith Cowan: Finnegan’s Teeth
Finnegan’s Teeth

Finnegan’s Teeth

2009 - 2010

by Judith Cowan


The project, “Finnegan's Teeth” originated as an artist’s book (2009). It initiates a type of epic poem seen through the eyes of an animal, Finnegan. Tales and photography reveal the development of Kings Cross in a state of flux.

Later, as a public art project (2009), it transported that visual journey of happenings and events accompanied by voices of the street back into their places of origin in a giant theatre of language and images. A monumental image and text filled all windows of the Fish & Coal building, visible from outside Kings Cross and St Pancras stations, and along with the image under Maiden Lane Canal Bridge, was also witnessed close up by canal and towpath users. The third image filled hoardings on Goodsway and was visible from the road.

In 2010, the “Finnegan’s Teeth” installation made for the Tina B Festival in Prague, became more like an aural tale from another city, appearing embedded in the idea of another place.

The installation of image and text from Goodsway, Kings Cross was fitted around the four walls of the room, with cut outs for doorways etc, the book sat on a specially designed rough wooden bench, whilst a documentary about the project was seen from a bench in an adjacent space.

The whole project is about what happens when we see our world through the eyes of an animal? What forms this altered visual language and what are its new visual codes? How as humans do we understand ‘an animal gaze’? Photographs were taken from a dog’s perspective and height at its moment of turning to ‘look’ by tying a camera onto its body. This meta-world of senses was photographed and actual events/dialogues woven into the whole. Images selected for the artist’s book were those that relinquished conventional aesthetics and prioritized the animal view and the voices on the street.

The artist’s book had three different voices in the text, the “dog” in large-sized print, voices of the street in medium-sized print and the narrator in smaller print. Starting conventionally from left to right it changes into a book that reads backwards and forwards, sideways etc. replicating the way a dog constantly turns its head.

Parts of the book, adapted into image/text works, were re-sited as giant images back into their place of origin. This meant working with the physical space and performative capacity of the place whether it was a building, hoarding, or a canal. Renee Vaughan Sutherland’s film documents the rapid installation on the final 3 sites.

The installation in Prague was cut to architecturally fit into the room’s space in such a way that it appeared to belong to it. The previously distanced work on the Goodsway hoardings was suddenly brought close with images and words involving the audience’s bodily space.

“Finnegan’s Teeth” as a whole project embraces an aural tradition. The public encountered images and dialogue re-sited onto the same streets from which they came. Re-told tales returning to their place of origin made the ordinary become extraordinary. A new mapping of the area was made from experiences rather than geography.

The actual dog’s vision become seen as generic for an ‘animal gaze’. Reversing the scale of humans and small animals (dogs) created an alarmingly, altered perspective and image. Likewise the nameless, overlooked voices in the street were also publically seen in a heroic new light. Visual language re-created itself with constant surprises - of scale, images made of a place, which ‘belonged’ to that space.