Rosa and Micas
Arthur Gillet

Painting on cotton
70 x 100 cm

As part of a Carte Blanche invitation, Arthur Gillet presents the textile series “A Ring of Bright Water” for the Foundation. These unique pieces made of silk and cotton are inspired by the issues raised by Donna Haraway in her Companion Species Manifesto (2003), and the human desire to domesticate wild animals. The otter, as a species threatened by its attractions, is an eloquent example: Gavin Maxwell or Rosa Bonheur tried to weave a close relationship with it. Today, a frenzy is developing on social networks where otters, torn from their biotopes, are reduced to cute and transitional objects, which some influencers are trying to denounce.


The otter is playful and sociable, yet remains wild. It is clumsy on land, but transforms itself to be elegant and stealthy in the water. It was in Iraq that the English writer Gavin Maxwell adopted the Mijbil otter. He was no doubt touched by its canine side, since the otter is called a water dog in both Sumerian and Old Scottish. Gavin Maxwell moves with Mijbil to a wild Scotland, more conducive to their well-being. Perhaps it was on the same beach that St. Cuthbert, in the 6th century, bathed with otters and enacted the first known ecological law in the West, banning humans from certain islands to preserve the wildlife.

In 1775, Buffon heard of a woman living in Autun who shared a bed and meal with an otter named “Loup-loup”. The naturalist failed to cohabit with these animals from a scientific rather than an emotional perspective. Rosa Bonheur and her companion Nathalie Micas also lived with an otter. Faced with the current frenzy surrounding this wild animal, and in particular via the development of “otter cafés”, some influencers such as Aty are trying to radically change their approach. This shift from a patriarchal and anthropocentric relationship to a model of cohabitation is an important issue addressed by the American philosopher Donna Haraway’s Companion Species Manifesto (2003). The otter, a species threatened by its attractions, exposes the challenge to human love: its need to overcome the illusions that are at the root of this feeling.” – Arthur Gillet 

Arthur Gillet (1986, France) graduated in 2011 from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Rennes and trained in contemporary dance at the Musée de la danse. He grew up in gender transition, in a deaf and neuroatypical family on the margins of the labour market, communicating through gestural and non-verbal figuration. Marked by the authors and artists who accompanied his transition (Naoko Takeuchi, Jane Austen, Valtesse de la Bigne, Virginia Woolf, Hannah Arendt, Catherine Geel, Murasaki Shikibu), he questions the reappropriation of the means of production, of the body and its image, through ceramics, carpentry, painting on silk, sewing and performance.
As part of his residency at the Cité internationale des arts in 2022, his studio allows him to work in other formats and materials.