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Video Dog Star: William Wegman, Aesthetic Agency, and the Animal in Experimental Video Art

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image of Society & Animals

The canine photographs, videos, and photographic narratives of artist William Wegman frame questions of animal aesthetic agency. Over the past 30 years, Wegman's dog images shift in form and content in ways that reflect the artist's increasing anxiety over his control of the art-making process once he becomes identified, in his own words, as "the dog photographer". Wegman's dog images claim unique cultural prominence, appearing regularly in fine art museums as well as on broadcast television. But, as Wegman comes to use these images to document his own transition from dog photographer to dog breeder, these texts also reflect increasing restrictions on what I term the "pack aesthetics," or collaborative production of art and artistic agency, that distinguish some of the early pieces. Accounting for the correlations between multiple and mongrel dogs in Wegman's experimental video work and exclusively Weimaraner-breed dogs with human bodies in his recent work in large-format Polaroid photography, this article explores how Wegman's work with his "video dog star," his first Weimaraner dog Man Ray, troubles the erasure of the animal in contemporary conceptions of artistic authority.


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