Susan Rankaitis statement for Projet Memoires d’elephants 2014 I have long been interested in the intersections between art and science and particularly, the contemporary neuroscience research that investigates the hows and whys of human emotion. In my recent and ongoing “Elephants Memorie” series, my interest in emotion extended beyond the field of human emotion. My curiosity was sparked by Jean Paul Sidolle, a supervisor at the Nantes Art Museum, who in the summer of 2013 invited me to participate in a large-scale project committed to calling attention to the current plight of elephants. My “ Memoires d’elephants” works in the “9 Point Perspective” exhibit at the Scripps Williamson Gallery in Claremont, California were documented to be added to a large database of artists’ works resulting in what I believe to be an important and hopefully effective “art action.” In conceptualizing this body of work, I knew that I wanted to photograph a single elephant—the “model” for all of the representations of elephants in my pieces. Tina is one of three Asian elephants at the Los Angeles Zoo in Griffith Park, Los Angeles, California. Her presence at the zoo could be a source of contention: many argue convincingly and passionately against keeping any wild animal in captivity. In their eyes, Tina ought not be at that zoo or any other. I, too, hope that the day comes when the constant slaughter of elephants ceases; when they can all once again roam in their natural environment. Until that time arrives, however, I am grateful that there are places where these incredible animals can be kept safe. While I was wrestling with fusing my ongoing questions and methodologies to create this project, some intriguing, recent work from the John Allman Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology emerged. I first discovered the Allman Lab work with aspects of elephant brain function in an article in Smithsonian magazine.1 The article provided an inroad that allowed me to move forward with the overall project. In a nutshell, Allman and his colleagues advance the idea that self-awareness and social awareness are part of the same brain function. Von Economo cells, which are extremely important to this awareness connection, are found in very few species other than humans. At the time of the writing of the article, they had been found in great apes “and a handful of other notably gregarious creatures.2” Allman suspected that they would be found in elephants, which he proved to be true.3 Thus, the John Allman Lab research provided a crucial emotional and social connection between elephants and humans that I needed to reference, albeit, somewhat abstractly, in the pieces titled VENS and Inhibit/Impulse. Working “with” an elephant and “for” the survival of elephants has made me reexamine some theoretical approaches to my participation in this exhibition in a new context. Thus, Nicolas Bourriaud’s seminal essay, “Relational Aesthetics”4 that focused on art making and art viewing in the context of human relations and social interaction has led to my inclusion of an added “participant” artist in this series. Wanalee’s painting was purchased for inclusion with my three pieces. Her artwork makes this series more interesting as well as more of a social and emotional experience for me, for including a painting created by an elephant further reinforces the varied types of relationships and questions that have been an often hidden underpinning in my work.