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Mace & Crown | March 23, 2018

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Moment of Silence: 'Anima' exhibit at Chrysler

Moment of Silence: ‘Anima’ exhibit at Chrysler

James Finney | Assistant A&E Editor

The caisson horses of Arlington National Cemetery bare a solemn burden, carrying the bodies of fallen servicemen and women to their final resting place.

The horses themselves are either a team of all black or all white steeds, accompanied by the U.S. Army’s Old Guard, the first commissioned unit of infantrymen to fight for the United States of America.

The clip-clop of the horses’ feet is often the only noise heard during the funeral ceremonies.

As the horse shepherd, these warriors to their final resting place, soldiers and families line the road, saluting. On some days, they will carry out this duty eight times before the sun sets, through fatigue, through rain and through the tears of the grieving.

The responsibility of these horses is a quiet and intimate affair, a far cry from their former military service as beasts of burden and warfare. So it’s fitting that artwork dedicated to them is housed in the Chrysler Museum “Box,” a small dark room furnished with only a single, black leather bench.

The video screen depicting the horses at rest in their pens is the only thing that illuminates the room. That’s convenient, considering the name of this particular exhibit, “Anima,” the Latin word for ‘soul.’

The art project “Anima” features several short videos of the caisson horses falling asleep at their home in Fort Myer, Va. Charlotte Dumas, the Dutch artists responsible for the works, wants you to have a deeply personal moment with these animals, to see their souls.

On the process of creating “Anima,” Dumas commented from her website, “As I spent time with them at night I felt that this was maybe one of the most intimate and private moments to witness: the gap between wakefulness and slumber, a space for dreaming and reverie.”

It is a deeply private moment that you share with these horses, it’s almost uncomfortable. The one moment these horses spend alone, not shrouded in a bittersweet cloud of loss and sacrifice, is now open to anyone who is willing to see.  

As the horses lay there, mere feet away, it feels like it would be the easiest thing to reach out and pet the thin hairs of their manes. However, it would be a disservice to wake them after such a long and brooding day.

Seeing the caisson horses, so separated from the task assigned to them, reveals to viewers that these horses have their own lives and experiences beyond their interactions with human society. It’s a reminder that animals have their own souls, and that’s the point.

“Anima” is a dedication to the animals that live behind our walls and live beside each day. It’s a reminder that these animals have their own lives, their own souls and that we should acknowledge that.