In The Nervous Canines, Aram Lee investigates the temporal anomalies and reappropriations of fictionalities in institutional archives. Engaging with Study of Two Brazilian Tortoises (1640), a painting by the Dutch painter Albert Eckhout, she brings into focus the fictional teeth of the two tortoises. As part of the colonial policy to document people, landscapes, and animals, Albert Eckhout was commissioned to portray these Brazilian animals. Although the actual tortoises are toothless, in Albert’s painting we see sharp teeth framing their mouths. In The Nervous Canines, the two static object-like tortoises incrementally move, aggressively and agitated. The imagined teeth are resignified into the neurotic vowels of the tortoises and their paroxysmal movements.

The Nervous Canines was part of the Suns and Stars program of 2021-2023, an overarching project for artistic practices that develop through open-ended research in a context of collaboration, initiated by Marjoca de Greef and Anastasija Pandilovska. Other participating artists were Sarah van Lamsweerde and Richtje Reinsma. The video installation The Nervous Canines was presented in 2022 at the group show In the pause of a gesture there might be an echo #3 curated by Suns and Stars at Arti et Amicitiae, Amsterdam.

The archival research was conducted with the kind help of Sheila Reda, researcher and conservator at Mauritshuis, Den Haag. Made possible with the kind support of the Mondriaan Fonds and Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds Noord-Holland.

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