A Dog Republic was initiated by artists Jean-Baptiste Decavèle, Nico Dockx, and Helena Sidiropoulos, architect Yona Friedman, musician Krist Torfs, Ludlow 38 curatorial resident Clara Meister, and graphic designers Thomas Mayfried and Quentin Walesch. The exhibition consists of videos, objects, and publications from their collaborative process.
The starting point of A Dog Republic was raw photo and video footage of an unfinished, abandoned skytrain bridge in Bangkok, collected by Nico Dockx in the spring of 2005 upon the request of a group of Thai skydogs—stray dogs that live high up in unfinished urban structures and skyscrapers. In 2007 and 2008, Nico and Helena Sidiropoulos visited Yona Friedman and his dog Balkis in Paris to exchange some of the experiences, encounters, and conversations they'd had in Bangkok with these skydogs. In 2008, Yona replied to their stories with a beautiful faxed letter on the notion of gravity… ending with a big French ough-ough-ough barking. In 2009, the late Balkis asked them to work on a series of drawings using the footage of the abandoned "ghost" bridge in Bangkok, as a potential zone for stray dogs to meet, fight, wander, talk, and interact with one another. Balkis was possibly referring to René Clément's La Bataille du rail (1946), a film about political resistance during World War II, in which French railroad workers sabotaged railways to slow down deportation trains to concentration camps. In 2011, Jean-Baptiste Decavèle, a close friend of Yona and Balkis, joined the project after a long journey to Balkis Island, a fictional island that emerged from the friendship between Yona and Jean-Baptiste, and made the animation of all related imagery. In early 2012, most of the dog friends met again in Paris to work on a film and book project about the many barking conversations they'd had since 2005, resulting in the Dog Republic's first constitution. Krist Torfs produced the soundtrack for the film using drum beats to generate a rhythm for Jean-Baptiste's fictional animations. Clara Meister, Thomas Mayfried, and Quentin Walesch teamed up with them to work on the Dog Republic's exhibition, conversations, flyer, booklet, and artist book edition for the first public showing in New York.
The animated sounds and images in the exhibition, and especially in the film, are not compulsorily bound to meaning in the way that words are bound to it, but still act as a code for the communication of its own politics and poetry. The exhibition is accompanied by a day-long conversations event with Jean-Baptiste Decavèle, Nico Dockx, Krist Torfs, and invited guests, including Camille Henrot, Molly Nesbit, Vanessa Place, Rirkrit Tiravanija, and a small group of students and invited participants at the Columbia University School of the Arts, New York, in close collaboration with the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp, and the Department of Art at Vassar College, New York. The conversations will further explore the topics of language and meaning, and, in particular, how language organizes society and who actually formulates social rules and laws.
The project also includes a publication with an interview with some of the Dog Republic's members and an essay by Helena Sidiropoulos.
With the support of the Flemish authorities.