An open letter in explanation of work at RMIT

Dear Dylan Hammond

I am writing to you in the hope that you, as an artist, may be able to help me with something. 

You see, my cat died recently. 

His name was Ace Ventura.

Whenever we had guests they would instantly gravitate towards him,  drawn by his forlorn figure, and attempt to pay him affection. He would always greet this offering of kindness sparked by pity with an odd kind of curiosity. 

Staying perfectly still he would continue to stare at our guests as if trying to fathom the meaning of their cries,


During this entire exchange a steady stream of saliva would slither down his white front. Laughing awkwardly, our guests would dismiss him as mentally deficient or foolish, however, it was obvious from their unease that they were merely trying to cover for the disquieting effect that his uncomprehending stare had on them. 

It was as if Ace had broken an implicit contract. One in in which he, as a cat, had agreed to purr and nuzzle or at least simply get angry and hiss. By simply staring quizzically he had broken the contract and therefore, in the eyes of our guests, ceased to constitute a ‘cat’ as they had come to define it and had become a mask for a potentially vast and impenetrable void.

I would simply love it if you, as an artist, could do ‘something’ to or with my snapshots of him to make his effect on people more palpable.

I realise this is a hard task but I feel that if it is possible for a painting to be read as an allegory of our relationship to the ‘real’ world then I feel my cat should be able to function in the same way through the photos that remain of him.

Enclosed here is a photo of Ace on the 
windowsill of our toilet. 


Siobhan Hannigan


Dear Siobhan

Thank you for your letter and my condolensces on the loss of your beloved cat.

This is certainly difficult project.

However, not only is it difficult, it is dangerous. The danger here is that in the absence of the actual cat the image would begin to replace him. All of his warmth, all of the times when, instead of staring, he would stand, awkward yet comforted, on your lap and purr, would be seen as secondary to this archetypal image which would, in a sense, obliterate his past. Over time it is possible that you would forget who your cat was, that there were times when you were at least sure that he was experiencing something analogues to comfort or even pleasure, despite this mask of which you speak.

Images have this power. 

I would like you to consider this before asking me to proceed with the proposed project, a memory or story can sometimes be as useful and less damaging than a concrete representation of the past. 



P.s. I have enclosed some photos of my own which I have been trying to select in such a way that they 
avoid this pitfall of obscuring the past and instead encourage interpretations of it to be kept malleable within the present.