Our ﬁrst art ﬁlm ‘Instinct’ featured below, was made during the early years of our expeditions in search of endangered predators in remote regions and previewed at the ICA in London. The footage was shot and edited by us both on a variety of formats ranging from 8mm to 16mm and early digital. The soundtrack is by Ali Farka Touré and arranged by Suzi.
Afew years later Nick Fraser of BBC ‘Storyville’ commisioned a one hour documentary about our work in the wild. It features much of the footage from ‘Instinct’.
Here is the review of this documentary by our friend, the writer and fellow lover of true wilderness; AA Gill.
“In answer to Darwin, the estimable Storyville came up with Olly and Suzi, a pair of artists who collaborate to make animal pictures. One is left-handed, the other right-handed, and they draw marks simultaneously on the same page, creating images that are half-found objects, sometimes comic, often beautiful and always with the innate vibration of the wild. They work up-close in the bush, the tundra, underwater, as close as they can get to their subject; and they specialise in predators: lions, sharks, bears, wild dogs, crocodiles, snakes. But there is an added element of danger, of commitment, daring bullishness, circus and adventure. The work has elements of performance and environmental advocacy. Olly and Suzi’s paintings are also wild and live outside the urbane, fashionable and expensive contemporary art market. As our own Waldemar Januszczak explained, this was not least because animals and nature are not where the art world looks for its art. It is a civic and urban calling, and those who want kitsch animal paintings of thunderous elephants and suicidal partridges aren’t going to get the expressions of zoomorphism in Olly and Suzi’s work.
As an art show, Wild Art bordered on the remedial. Its tone and inquiry were just too tentative. It never really found out what it was actually trying to discover. As a nature film, however, it was revelatory.
We are so used to seeing the wild on television revealed in an orthodox way; the Attenborough version of natural-history film-making has been so successful that it has become the one vision of how the wild world should be approached and examined, and the lessons we should come away with are practical, scientific, liberal and ecologically committed. But there are other ways of seeing the world we live in and the things that live with us. Olly said their view of animals was influenced by the romanticised philosophy of American Indians — creatures were all brothers, dinner and gods, a complex mystical and practical vision of nature. Their pictures resemble prehistoric rock art — the images in Lascaux in southwest France, the kopjes of Africa, the canyons of South America — images that are aesthetic as a by-product of their mystical purpose. This is not just a pre-Darwinian vision of the world, it’s a pre-Christian one. This documentary told us something about a pair of sinewy artists, but it told us a lot more about television’s relationship with nature and humanity’s place in the wild.”
The Sunday Times 2009