2019 Installation, Light-Boxes
Records and Transcripts, Sound
Aquazoo, Düsseldorf (2019)
Sea Life, Königswinter, Germany (2019)
Océanopolis Brest, France (2019)
Sea Life, Melbourne, Australia (2020)
“Why look at Animals?” John Berger asked in his famous essay from 1977, in which he analysed the estrangement of humans and animals in the culture of capitalism. His criticism of the zoo as a place in which non-human animals are reduced to exhibition objects is still read and shared today. Interestingly, aquariums were, for a long time, exempt from this criticism. Even the early aquarists criticised zoos as prisons, but were at the same time convinced that the aquarium was something completely different – namely a part of the sea.
Glass and its illusionistic characteristics play a central role in the power of this narrative: “In that the glassy medium presents a sectional cut through the water space, in stead of a view from above, it created an an ‘eye-to-eye’ perspective, ‘where a human observer sees marine life from within – that is, as if he were underwater with the creatures depicted, and therefore watching them at their own level’.” (Mareike Vennen, Das Aquarium, 2018)
In our contribution to OktoLab we enter into contact with individual octopuses that live in environments designed and controlled by humans. In the sense of a multi-species ethnography we chronicle two interwoven narratives. Firstly, our own perception of the situation: the different actors, such as, for example, the glass mentioned before, the architecture, the behaviour of the visitors. Secondly we attempt a change of perspective, by seeing the world through the eyes of the octopus. For this we experiment with methods of obtaining insight that create a connectedness; in particular we work with mental techniques of empathy such as those used by shamans or animal communicators.
While classic aquarium displays provide information about the geographical origin of animals, the characteristics of the species and finally the animals themselves, the displays in our work represent our approach to the animal subjects. From planning the visit, to the description of our perception on-site, to the empathic immersion into the body and mind of the individual octopus.
Visiting Octopus was first presented in the exhibition
OktoLab19: Gallery of Octopus Aesthetics at Plimsoll Gallery Hobart, Tasmania
Curatorial Team: Heike Ander, Anne Hölck, Toby Juliff,
André Krebber, Maike Riedinger and Yvette Watt
Translation: Tom Ashforth
Photos Installation Views: Rémi Chauvin, Pascal Dreier
Funding & Support:
ifa-Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen
Australia Council for the Arts
University of Tasmania
Tasmanian Government Minister for the Arts