2019 Installation, light boxes, texts, sound
“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, it creates (…) 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’.”1
In our contribution to Okto-Lab we enter into contact with individual octopods 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 visitors. Secondly we attempt a change of perspective, by seeing the world through the eyes of the octopods. 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.
1Mareike Vennen, Das Aquarium, 2018