The concept of animal spirit has traveled and transformed across history. 2500 years ago, it was known as “spiritus animalis”, a spirit moving through the nerves of the human body, responsible for sensation and motor control. It then appeared in John Maynard Keynes’ theory on human irrationality, overpowering the so-called invisible hand of the market. Thus, animal spirit became human emotions that drive the decision-making process and are impossible to predict.
Later still, the animal spirit transformed into the spirit animal of many economic players. The lazy fat cats, hawks and doves fighting over inflation regulation, the greedy vultures, the much-desired unicorn… just to name a few common terms in the trading vocabulary. As such, an antique and mysterious power has mutated into a contemporary allegory, an animal fable that speaks of economic tragedies, playing out on the stage of the markets.
Captured in obscure action through thermal camera lenses, a number of these spirit animals are portrayed in Maria Szakats’ small tapestries, a nod to an ancient means of storytelling: the woven or embroidered arras. Seemingly caught in the act, some appear to have malicious intent, while others stand their ground.
A larger tapestry depicting the sun emanates a hazy glow, bringing these creatures and their machinations into the light.
Maria Szakats (Austria) is in residence at the Cité internationale des arts through the “2-12” programme.