It’s a Dog’s Life: How art is deepening the relationships between people and their pooches

19 July 2019

Dog lovers looking to get closer to their pooches have the opportunity to do so this weekend at an interactive workshop being led by University of Derby artist and researcher Angela Bartram.

Human School (be your dog!) is part of the Manchester International Festival’s two day event Animals of Manchester (including HUMANZ), an interactive Live Art experience created by Hamburg-based artist Sibylle Peters (Theatre of Research) and London’s Live Art Development Agency (LADA), which poses questions about the relationship between humans and other animals exploring what life might be like if dogs, cows, pigeons, squirrels and other creatures lived alongside us as our peers.

Inspired by her own dog, Angela’s work is designed to turn the concept of the dog school around, asking the dogs to be the teachers, showing ‘students’ of the Human School how to become part of the pack, connect across companion species and to be more ‘dog’.

On Saturday 20 July, students of the Human School are bringing their own dogs along to explore their relationship on a connected and empathetic level. Day two (21 July) will see human students experiencing companionship and getting to know dogs that have been invited from Dogs4Rescue, a ‘Not for Profit’ organisation which fosters abused street dogs from abroad.

Angela Bartram, Associate Professor at the University of Derby, said: “For over fifteen years I have been engaged with research that explores domestic animal relationships, specifically between humans and dogs, regarding the significance of interspecies companionship.

“As the oldest domestic animal and ‘Man’s Best Friend’, dogs connect with us emotionally and empathetically and this makes them of interest.

Human School (Be Your Dog!) explores this bond practically in Animals of Manchester, and I am incredibly lucky and privileged to be invited to make this commissioned artwork for Manchester International Festival 19.”

The University’s Professor Keith McLay, Pro Vice-Chancellor Dean of the College of Arts, Humanities and Education, added: “The University of Derby is enormously proud of Associate Professor Angela Bartram’s commission to participate in the Manchester International Festival.

“This prestigious invitation allows Angela to showcase her cutting edge work in the practice-based creative arts. Those who attend the ‘dog school’ should be prepared to be disrupted artistically, conceptually and physically as Angela pushes the aesthetic and philosophical boundaries between animal and human.”

Commissioned and produced by the Manchester International Festival 2019, the two-day free event is on the Festival’s final weekend, and will provide visitors with the opportunity to get involved in some absorbing interspecies activities, workshops and encounters in the Whitworth’s galleries and Whitworth Park, Manchester.

In addition to the Human School, there will be a palace for mice and for humans, a film studio run by beetles, a hedgehog hospital, a conference of animals led by a cow, living memorials for extinct species, a Bestiary Beauty Parlour and a Life Art Library honouring animals as artists and performers.

‘Humanz’ of all ages are welcome to explore the fascinating cultural experiment and become citizens of this alternative city.

To find out more about Angela Bartram’s work and the research taking place at the University of Derby, visit and

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