Dominic Nurre, Objection Room, 2010, mixed media, dimensions variable. Installation view. Photo: Jason Schmidt.


Dominic Nurre is a Brooklyn-based artist participating in the third iteration of MoMA PS1’s “Greater New York.” Here, he discusses Objection Room, his contribution to the exhibition, which opens on Sunday, May 23. Nurre will perform The Funambulist on August 8, walking from the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn to the museum in Queens while carrying a three-foot metal pipe.

A YEAR AGO, I went with my father and a few of his buddies to Zimbabwe for a big game hunt. I’m not a hunter—I went just to document. I wanted to experience the culture of hunting, the searching and stalking of animals. While there, I became interested in the way recordings of hyenas howling are used to attract the animals. The recordings are pretty crappy for the most part, but they totally work.

Our guides hooked up their iPods, opened the doors of their Land Cruisers, and just blared the sounds at an extremely high volume for ten minutes. It’s nearly unbearable. Then they would shut it off and do it all over again until you could hear an animal coming. The lights would go on and there was a hyena. You’d have about a second––if even that––to try to shoot it.

I tracked down the same MP3s that the guides use, as well as a recent study about hyenas and an interpretation of their noises through various recordings. I’m using a mix of these in my work. In my research, I also learned that there is very little sexual dimorphism in the species. The females are actually slightly larger than the males, which is unusual in the animal kingdom. The females have an enlarged clitoris, and early Europeans believed the species was homosexual, possibly hermaphroditic. I became interested in the idea of hyenas as a spooky, sneaky, giggling, conniving, and scavenging animal and how that relates––especially the sneakiness––to Western ideas of what homosexuals are like: giggling, sneaky men.

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A sample recording of hyena howling.

The room has a freestanding wall with glory holes and a black plumbing pipe jutting out, so that people have to duck as they enter. This is one way of making the space more physical; this physicality will also evolve organically as the room gets hotter over the summer. It’s a corner room with these great windows; they are going to be open all summer, so the humidity and the weather will enter the space. The atmosphere will be heavy, especially compared with the rest of the air-conditioned museum. The curators were fine with leaving the windows open, as well as with having the sounds from the room penetrating the environment, and the environment (birds and flies, so far) penetrating the museum.

I’ve used salt licks in two sculptures. Cattle ranchers use salt licks to nourish their livestock, and hunters use them to attract deer to their property. The bigger the deer, the nicer the trophy. This is a much easier hunt because you know where the deer congregate. I like the idea of the salt licks as a meeting place for consumption and demise. This relates to the glory hole as a meeting place—it’s a trope for community (people “meet”) but also for anticommunity, because of the anonymity. I’m attracted to the thought of something being nourishing and constructive but at the same time not allowing a real community to grow. The hyena recordings are like this too: They seem to say, “Hey, come join me.”

— As told to Lauren O’Neill-Butler