In just one minute, the heart of a mouse beats up to 632 times–ten times faster than a human heart.
In the 19th century, experiments on animals were established as a reasonable way of research to learn about the human body and how it works. Today, millions of mice and rats are born and die inside of laboratories as scientists take advantage of the fact that their genetic and biological characteristics closely resemble those of humans. However, from all the drugs successfully tested on animals, less than one out of ten succeeds in human clinical trials. We are no mice, after all.
The scent of Flowers, The touch of Soil is dedicated to the lives of mice and rats who are used in the name of science. The exhibition features photographs of animals bred for experiments together with fading flowers to open a dialogue around the ethical and moral flaws of animal testing and the human disconnection from the natural world. The withering flowers speak of sadness and grief yet bear within them a beauty and remedy in the innocent thought that, in the inherent reciprocity of nature, nothing ever dies; life is just transforming.
The photographic series is inspired by the American writer Daniel Keyes’ novel Flowers for Algernon (1969), where a man and a mouse undergo the same experiment to increase their intelligence. The themes challenged in the book are still timely today in a society that values rationality and intellect over love and empathy–a society that normalises treating all life as a resource. The contrast between documentary images, personal notes, and videos, and the clash of paper, flowers, soil, and steel ask us to fulfill our roles as part of this breathing world.
Dominik invites everyone who wants to express their empathy to bring their withering flowers to the exhibition. The patch of soil at the centre of the gallery will embrace every aging bouquet and fallen petal. In the last week of the exhibition all visitors are encouraged to take a bit of soil with them; for old plants to be nurtured and new life to be grown in memory of those who could never experience the touch of soil and the scent of flowers.
The scent of Flowers, The touch of Soil was created with a slowly beating human heart. It is my tribute to animals used in medical research, even if it might be nothing but a mere gesture–like placing a dying flower into the dirt in the belief that all life is sacred.
Dominik Fleischmann is a visual artist and writer born in 1989 in Germany. He studied photography in Berlin and Helsinki. Before moving to Finland, he worked in animal sanctuaries across the globe researching the relationship between humans and nature. His photographs are rooted in the search of ethics, justice and care for the breathing world. His work combines a documentary approach with a lyrical narrative and draws inspiration from nature writers, ecofeminism, poetry and environmental activism.
The artist’s work and this exhibition have been supported by Arts Promotion Centre Finland (Taike), Åland Archipelago Artist Residence, Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Patricia Seppälä Foundation, Finnish Cultural Foundation and the invaluable help of friends and family.
Special Events with the artist at Photographic Gallery Hippolyte:
Worthy of Empathy
Public Talk with Elisa Aaltola
12 May 2022, 17.15-18.45
The event will be held in English. Please note, the event will be recorded for documentation purposes and shared online via Hippolyte’s digital channels at a later date.
Ways of Knowing Reading Group with Jo Hislop
28 May 2022, 10.00-11.30
The event will be held in English.
The scent of Flowers
The touch of Soil
6-29 May 2022
Photographic Gallery Hippolyte