In Between the Human and the Animal: Subjectivity and Authority in Ann-Sofi Sidén's Queen of Mud Project.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This article explores the “question of the animal” in Swedish artist Ann-Sofi Sidén’s project Queen of Mud, executed between 1988 and 2004. Queen of Mud revolves around a naked female creature, smeared from top to toe in wet mud, which interferes in human affairs and challenges thereby common assumptions about the human/animal divide and the human-animal continuum. By reading Queen of Mud over against three disparate but critical moments in modern reflection on animality – the Rainer Maria Rilke/Martin Heidegger “controversy” over the animal and the concept of the Open; John Searle’s philosophy of social ontology; and the memoirs of the German judge Daniel Paul Schreber, composed during his period of paranoia – I argue that the figure of the animal in Sidén’s project simultaneously covers and manifests the incommensurability between bodily existence and societal mandate that defines the human subject. Throughout three distinct phases, the project gradually excavates the resistance of the body against being subsumed under societal determinations, and lays bare the emergence/emergency of corporeality as a fundamental threat against societal authority. While contested phenomena as xenotransplantation and cross-species genetic engineering may seem to cast the “question of the animal” today in purely biological terms, this article argues that it concerns just as much the demarcation that outlines a regulated sphere of societal inter-human relations. Animality is thus not understood as a threshold between the human being and other life forms, but as a divide within the human as a simultaneously corporeal and societal creature.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Art History


  • Ann-Sofi Sidén, Searle, contemporary art, social ontology, animality, Schreber, archive
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-199
JournalKonsthistorisk Tidskrift
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Publication categoryResearch

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