Paola Pivi has a strong international profile for her photographic, sculptural, installation and performance works, in which she stages incongruous encounters. These unexpected juxtapositions create poetic, political and often humorous associations, and many in the past decade have incorporated animals. Her best known photographs are Untitled (Donkey) 2003 and Untitled (Zebras) 2003, which feature a donkey standing in a boat and zebras outlined against snow, respectively. Recent sculptural works include a series of taxidermied polar bears covered in yellow feathers, seeming to tweak genetic codes. Pivi has also created installations of live animals, most notably in 2007 with her work Interesting, staged in an abandoned warehouse in Milan. A number of white animals — including horses, rabbits, llamas, geese and peacocks, sourced through a company that specialises in animals for cinema and advertising — had the run of the long, concrete space.
One Love 2007 is a photographic portrait of around 20 white animals, some of them albino, in a pastoral setting. In the foreground, a pig nuzzles a sheep, raising the possibility of interspecies love, and many of the animals gaze out at the viewer as if sharing our incredulity. The work also contains the resonance of eighteenth-century European paintings which depicted ‘exotic’ species from disparate geographies, brought to Europe via colonial trade routes for the entertainment of the wealthy. Pivi also underlines the connotations of ‘white’ identity and racist histories. Her work participates in a recent tendency in contemporary art practice to explore ecological and ethical concerns, as well as questions relating to what it means to be human, through representations of animals.