Ecology, 20 September 2018

Animal / Subject

Investigation by Christophe Kihm


There are countless exhibitions, seminars, conferences, books and special magazine or newspaper editions dedicated to “animals”, not to mention studies in the field of human sciences, from anthropology to philosophy, sociology to history, which endeavor to study the cultures of human relationships to other animals. This recent phenomenon, unfolding against the backdrop of the sixth mass extinction of the world’s species, also concerns the visual arts. Aside from illustrating a trend, what else can be proposed?

[ 1 ]

This text distinguishes between human/animal because it seems to be a relevant distinction for all of the cultural objects on which uphold it. It is clear, however, that one of the things at stake in artistic and theoretical production is to move past this distinction.

[ 2 ]

Cousteau was an officer in the French Navy.

[ 3 ]

A comparison clearly established by Cousteau, who says in a voice-over that “A dolphin is not a fish, but a mammal much like a dog.”

[ 4 ]

We often refer to the animistic model, whose “cosmogonies” could be a useful example, without more details… even though it is all about details and not models…

[ 5 ]

Such as defined by Charles Baudelaire when he describes a “form molded on an idea”.

[ 6 ]

Such as proposed by Johan Huizinga: “Having attributed a real existence to an idea, the mind wants to see this idea alive, and can only effect this by personifying it. In this way allegory is born.” The Waning of the Middle Ages, Middlesex, Penguin Books, 1922, p. 206.

[ 7 ]

Artnet, Artnet news, “Why the Guggenheim’s Controversial Dog Video Is Even More Disturbing Than You Think”, Ben Davis, 20 September 2017, https://news.artnet.com/art-world/so-whats-really-going-on-with-that-disturbing-dog-video-at-the-guggenheim-1100417, last consulted December 8, 2017.

[ 8 ]

ShangARTGallery, “An Interview with Xu Zhen, Chen Xiaoyun”, 2001 http://www.shanghartgallery.com/galleryarchive/texts/id/588, last consulted on December 8, 2017.

[ 9 ]

Translator’s note: Some titles are not available in English, their original French titles are “L’Incantation du loup” by Leconte de Lisle, “Le Pélican” by Musset, “Le Cygne” by Sully-Prudhomme and “Le Crapaud” by Hugo.

[ 10 ]

In A sound County Almanach, New York: Oxford University Press, 1949 (first edition), 1989, pp. 129-130.

[ 11 ]

Translator’s note: In French one could describe the hoax as an “ânerie”, an act of nonsense or silliness which plays on the French word for donkey, “âne”.

[ 12 ]

Tranlsator’s note: Here too, there is a play on words. The French “bêtise”, designating an inane act or bad behavior, derives from the French “bête” which means beast/animal and inane/stupid at the same time.

[ 13 ]

The Daily Mail: “Can jumbo elephants really paint? Intrigued by stories, naturalist Desmond Morris set out to find the truth”, Desmond Morris, February 22, 2009, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1151283/Can-jumbo-elephants-really-paint–Intrigued-stories-naturalist-Desmond-Morris-set-truth.html – socialLinks consluted December 8, 2017.

[ 14 ]



[ 15 ]

Performances for Pets, Krõõt Juurak and Alex Bailey http://www.performancesforpets.net/

http://www.performancesforpets.net/info/, last consulted December 8, 2017.

[ 16 ]


[ 17 ]

Performances for Pets, op. cit.

[ 18 ]

Spike Art Daily: “Portrait of Ian Cheng”, Gianni Jetzer, Spike 47, Spring 2016, pp. 94-107 URL https://www.spikeartmagazine.com/en/articles/portrait-ian-cheng last consulted December 8, 2017.

[ 19 ]

Cura Magazine: “Ian Cheng in conversation with Elvia Wilk”, Cura #23. http://curamagazine.com/contents/23-spotlight-ian-cheng-in-conversation-with-elvia-wilk/ last consulted December 8, 2017.

Today, who could imagine a documentary that purports to explore marine life while having scuba divers set off dynamite in the coral reef, killing hundreds of fish and plants, or where a member of the crew (presented as a passionate deep-sea fisherman) harpoons a sperm whale; where men stand on the backs of sea turtles…

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