Miranda Whall's drawings, photographs, videos and, most recently, animations are self-portraits. Whall explores her own identity in an attempt to recognise herself in relation to both the accessible and inaccessible, natural and man-made world around her. Through placing herself at the centre of both fictional worlds and real life situations she is able to make assumptions about what she might or might not be. The placement can seem at times inappropriate, awkward, humorous and erotic.

In PD Eastman’s classic children’s book, Are you my mother?, a baby bird falls prematurely out of its nest, with no idea of what or who it is. The bird begins a desperate search for its mother, it wanders around asking a cat, dog, bulldozer, anything it meets “Are you my mother?” Similarly, in her work Whall surrounds herself with bats, centipedes, extension leads, salt spreaders, caravans, lemon squeezers etc, she straddles rats and swings from the forks of a Panasonic Turbo agricultural machine in an attempt to recognise herself. By way of exaggerating some of the similarities and differences that exist between humans and their earthly cohabiters – animate and inanimate – Whall introduces her own sexuality: creating an autoerotic portrait, one that is self-contained, self-satisfied, self-absorbed and self-fulfilled.

For ‘Where the monkey sleeps’, two recent looped watercolour painting animations develop the themes of Whall's earlier still drawings. Focusing on individual couplings, Whall concentrates on just the relationship between herself and one other thing. In the animations Ladybirds and Simon and I (2005), Whall presents herself using a vibrator (a substitute penis). This can be read, on the one hand, as an example of evolutionary achievement and autonomy, but on the other hand, as a representation of the pathos of our evolution into detached, dislocated, lonely human beings. The image of the artist appears as a solitary figure within the work, relentlessly pursuing a point of connection to other things in order to attain recognition but instead experiencing indifference, serving only to expose and exaggerate the seemingly irreconcilable differences and lack of empathy that exists between the artist/human and the world that she/we inhabit.

Ladybirds presents autoerotic self-portraits coupled with birds perched on the artist’s head, rear or feet. Rendered in a style familiar from the ornithologist’s reference book, each bird is accompanied by its corresponding song: Black-cap, Goldfinch, Robin, Stone-chat, Wheat-ear, White-throat, Bramling. Whilst they chirp away the artist almost routinely attempts to satisfy herself with a man-made device. Each is preoccupied with their own world and seemingly oblivious to the activity of the other.

Simon and I is the first work in Whall's current ‘Love Songs’ series of animations presenting the artist with an ‘other’ (an animal, machine etc). Simon and I shows the figure of the artist and a domestic cat, again individually preoccupied. The cat circles around, stretches, rolls over and sits looking side to side. The cat’s series of movements is repeated ad infinitum while the figure, rear facing forward, masturbates with a vibrator; the mechanical, rhythmical action is repeated. As in Ladybirds there is no climax to either’s activity.

In both works Whall presents herself with the bird or cat in order to examine some of the subtle dynamics that occur between them: the indifference of them both to each other, and the disinterest in each other’s plight. There is a humour in the dynamic; in the inappropriateness of their being together and in their behaviour in each other’s company, as well as the failure to react to each other’s actions.

Read Mike Golding’s review of the exhibition at www.a-n.co.uk

Read Sam Gathercole’s review of the exhibition at www.axisweb.org