Shaun Slifer

re: video work

“Among the earliest forms of human self-awareness was the awareness of being meat.”
- David Quammen, Monster of God

I'm fascinated by the role that predator animals play in popular culture, in particular the way in which Hollywood movies utilize the “rogue beast” trope in entertainment. Whether they take the form of environmental precautionary tales (ex: the global warming theme of 1977's Day of the Animals) or eschew content in pursuit of unmitigated pulp action (1997's Anaconda, or any Jaws sequel), these movies speak to base fears that most people, especially those living in urban environs, seem to share: the fear of “other” in the form of animals, the fear of subordination to them, the fear of being eaten or defeated by creatures we cannot control. The advancement of civilization has always required the extermination of alpha predators as the basis for conquest.

It's not as though Hollywood films or even pulp novellas present new treatments of this theme - history is full of predator animals in fictional and mythical interactions with people. What I find intriguing is the repetition of this theme in entertainment today, and it's continual success at creating a binary understanding of “the Wild” despite the usually absurd presentation. From the giant octopus in the first 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1916) to Snakes on a Plane (2006), modern filmmakers continue to recycle formulaic stories in which people are forced into violent interactions with perverse versions of the natural world, usually ending in victory for the humans.

What originally began as a study of scenes of human-over-animal victories in contemporary movies has since evolved into a larger documentation of these violent interactions from any film I can get my hands on. This growing database of footage has been at the core of my video work since 2007.