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All photographs by Timothea Armour

I research pet crematoriums and find myself tearing up at really bad poems that are suggested as readings at a dog funeral. [1] Everything is happening at once and in the same space and is all gross and earnest and heartbreaking. I find a video of a goldfish being cremated, outside at night. My sister apologises for calling the axolotl body ‘it’ but we are talking about its very material substance; what it is without the pleasure I am certain I observed.

It is all happening because one of my axolotls died. I didn’t want to bury him in our frequently dug-over shared garden and the nearest affordable seeming pet crematorium is an hour’s drive away and we don’t have a car so I put him in the freezer in a plastic takeaway container for a few days. At the weekend I transfer him into a small cardboard box that a scented candle was delivered in and tie it up with a strip of fabric, then we cycle to Cramond Island, stopping off at the pub on the way to buy some cans of beer. [2] He, frozen still, keeps mine cold as we travel, then we dig a small hole on the island with a trowel purchased from Charlie Dimmock’s range for Poundland, bury him and toast him with the body-chilled cans.

Entropy, love and violence all seem very close together, here and in Heather Phillipson’s version of human/non-human animal relations, full of sentimentality, tactility, consumer goods and environmental collapse. Her work makes me think of getting a bit toooo absorbed in touching all the angora and cashmere in M&S and forgetting then remembering that a) I look a bit weird b) this is rabbits and goats. Also, we shouldn’t touch things anymore: a dog is a surface. The work has a kind of synchronicity with my life at the moment that I don’t think is only because this big shiny monograph arrived in the middle of a period of time where I’m watching naked mole rats on a webcam as a sort of therapeutic practice. Even if there is a digitally collaged colony of them on page one hundred and fifty four. There’s also the stock photos of dogs on the pet cremation websites and the dog mannequins and THROW ME IN THERE WITH HIM painted on a makeshift sort of monument. [3] Small holes dug. [4] Chris Packham saying that ‘the virus has taught us that we are a part of nature not above it’. [5]

100 OTHER FIBRES 2017 p78
100 OTHER FIBRES 2017 p78

‘Chaos reigns’ is the only line spoken by a dead, CGI fox in Lars von Trier’s film Antichrist, as well as by Charlie Fox’s essay in this book, one of many lines. [6] I think maybe Heather Phillipson would agree that the fox was the best part of that film, and would maybe, along with me and Charlie Fox also be interested in where that fox sits between living, dead, animated, reanimated. ‘Remember the future in which you got motion sickness just seeing lars von trier.’ [7] I have a bit of motion sickness in this future. The naked mole rats are surprisingly adept at moving backwards to the point that it makes me question if I’m seeing them in real time or in reverse, dragging chunks of sweet potato through plastic tubing, their tiny eyes screwed up against the light.

I said to Luke that I’m not very good at writing endings. He suggested the last line for this review: ‘and then the naked mole rats turned up and the party went on forever’. Which is funny because there’s a work in this book called Ending all parties / Except the party / Where you meet your own brain and in this book I think I met my own brain.

Status Epilepticus 2018 p154
Status Epilepticus 2018 p154


[1] It was something like this one:

‘When it is time for me to go

And join her there, this much I know

I shall not fear the transient dark

For she will greet me with a bark.’

Anon, ‘10 Best Pet Memorial Poems’, Grief and Sympathy,

[2] Cramond Island is a tidal island the Firth of Forth, about one mile out to sea, connected to the mainland at low tide via a walkway built on the remains of a huge concrete submarine defence barrier.

[3] Heather Phillipson, ‘100% OTHER FIBRES’ 2016 p. 60


‘I’d rather be given CBT by a border collie

When there are fewer words around

my arms around

his only

adored and stinking neck


up my nostrils’

Heather Phillipson, ‘feelings’ in Heather Phillipson (London: Prestel, 2020) p.124

[5] Zoe Williams, ‘Chris Packham: ‘The virus has taught us that we are part of nature, not above it’, The Guardian, 10/06/20

[6] Charlie Fox, ‘Green Mind’ in Heather Phillipson, pp. 54-57 (p.55)

[7] Heather Phillipson, ‘Some things’ in Heather Phillipson p. 138

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Timothea Armour is an artist, committed slacker, three-sided football enthusiast and current student on the MLitt Art Writing course at Glasgow School of Art. She is also a previous committee member at Rhubaba gallery and studios in Leith and participated in Collective’s Satellites programme 2017 as an associate producer.

Heather Phillipson is a British artist working in a variety of media including video, sculpture, music, large-scale installations, online works, text, drawing and poetry. Her 4th Plinth and Underground project open in London this month.