Animals and Contemporary Art – Aesthetics of Liberation?

How Many Natures Can Nature Nurture?

Animals and Contemporary Art – Aesthetics of Liberation? How Many Natures Can Nature Nurture? | Events Calendar
Photograph of cinematographer Silvino Santos, in Albert W. Stevens "Exploring the Valley of the Amazon in a Hydroplane: Twelve Thousand Miles of Flying Over the World's Greatest River and Greatest Forest to Chart the Unknown Parima River from the Sky." National Geographic Magazine Apr. 1926.

With Arnaud Gerspacher and Dominic Pettman

E Village / LES

e-flux | 311 East Broadway

As part of e-flux journal’s SUPERCOMMUNITY issue #65 for the 56th Venice Biennale, e-flux will host a series of events expanding on the issue’s theme section Apocalypsis, guest-edited by Pedro Neves Marques.

Some days it is hard to believe Atlantic currents haven’t yet stalled, that logging and mining has not yet ended the Amazon, that there is still non-GMO food on our plates, or that the brain waves of elephants and dolphins haven’t yet been transcoded into a human language, that one can’t yet communicate with one’s own enzymes—tell them everything will be all right, after all they’re definitely winning the battle of mutation.

Everywhere we look, nature is a mess, both materially and conceptually. Unavoidably, as its optimal mirror, culture is not faring much better. This fuzziness between nature and culture may very well prove instrumental for a new evolutionary phase of technocapital in its trajectory towards an animated, hybrid future of global engineering. But it is also testing the limits of the modern anthropocentric system of knowledge, questioning who and what is emerging from the ecological debris of so-called progress as a political subject.

This event program has been organized in collaboration with Mariana Silva and Arnaud Gerspacher, without whose discussions it would certainly not have been possible.


Animals and Contemporary Art—Aesthetics of Liberation?
Thursday, June 18th 7:30pm

In an historical US court case, the Nonhuman Rights Project is currently pursuing the personhood of three chimpanzees in the state of New York—Tommy, Hercules, and Leo. In parallel, the last two decades of ethological studies have provided an exponential array of insights into animal intelligence and complex forms of sociality, both in anthro-affinity and as utterly alien to us human animals. This is a revolutionary moment in our coexistence with other animals. In light of this, is it the case that contemporary art has as begun to re-envision its understanding of animals and multi species relations? Or rather, despite the occasional counter-example, do the arts continue to favor considerations of taste over ethics, aesthetic transgression over nonhuman recognition, and subjects-as-material over subjects-as-life? Does the role of animals in art allow for a liberating species co-operation, or does it remain all-too fluidly in line with the imperatives of capital over eco-social justice?

Arnaud Gerspacher, Ph.D candidate in Art History, The Graduate Center, CUNY.
Dominic Pettman, cultural theorist and professor of Culture and Media at the Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts, The New School, NY.

SUPERCOMMUNITY is a special issue of e-flux journal commissioned for All The World’s Futures—the 56th International Art Exhibition: La Biennale di Venezia. Issue no. 65 spans from May to September with one piece of writing released each day including poetry, short fiction, plays and screenplays, and other epistolary forms by nearly one hundred authors. Under the SUPERCOMMUNITY umbrella there are several sub-themes developed by Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, and Anton Vidokle in collaboration with a number of guest editors including Raqs Media Collective, Natasha Ginwala, Pedro Neves Marques, Boris Groys, Tom Holert, and Coco Fusco.

Some say that our most recent stage of planetary evolution—our current geological epoch—is distinguished mainly by the permanently destructive effects of human industry on the biosphere, in species extinction, deforestation, pollution, radiation, and so on. Which is to say that humanity can no longer be taken as the solution to anything. On the contrary, and from the perspective of the earth, humanity looks increasingly like the problem. Strangely, humans may be eradicated soon, but at the same time this scenario understands humanity as more supremely powerful than at any time since the Enlightenment.
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