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Giraffe du Sennaar - Langlumé - Atlas vol. 10, 11 and 12, BNF

Why Talk to Animals

Following the philosophy of Donna Haraway Why Talk to Animals confronts the classical division of the cosmos into two separate worlds: Culture and Nature. The human being is thus constructed as an exception from nature. Only from this perspective the variety of animals is simplified as the animal. Hence we claim with Haraways words: human nature is an interspecies relationship. We need to talk to animals and discard human exceptionalism and the separation of reality into nature and culture! Therefore we declare: Pilsen is the first “NatureCultural Capital of Europe“.

When philosophers and artists reflect on animals, they usually have the human being in mind. The animal is, what we are not. Or what we would be, if we weren't gifted with reason, consciousness, language or political subjectivity – supposedly unique features that set us apart from all other living creatures. When natural scientists explore animals, they usually collect all there is to know about their physical condition, behavior, social life and evolution as a species. But they back off from drawing the consequences for us and our relation to them.

It is not sufficient to talk about the animal in a detached manner, we need to talk to it in order to recognize it as the complex creature it really is. Talking to the animal creates a space for it to answer. It won’t use our verbal language and may not react in a way we expect. Therefore it takes a huge amount of sensibility, trust and patience to learn how it communicates and what it demands or suggests. We should accept the animal as a dialogue partner and start to negotiate a shared world.

The conference Portraying Animals is the first part of Why Talk to Animals, a trilogy on human-animal relations to be held in Prague and Pilsen, the European Capital of Culture 2015. It opens up the theoretic and discursive field for a live event to follow in September: a public casting and photo shooting for a second Noah’s Ark staged in Pilsen. The resulting images serve as motifs for daily use consumer items which will be on sale in different showrooms in Pilsen and Prague for the rest of the year.

But all started quite differently ...


Prague-Berlin, January 2014

Dear Jakob,

after our talk about the possibility of a project in Pilsen and our walk to the zoo, I would like to tell you a spontaneous image that came to my mind on my travelling back to Berlin:

This walk path, 1000 meter long, which connects city and zoo, this is actually a wonderful constellation of places. And how extraordinary that the proper name of the road follows its length: the Kilometre. And there they are: zoo and amphitheatre directly close to each other, both places where man staged and looked at animals especially gladly.

La Zarafa landed in Marseille around 1830. She is a Giraffe caught in Sudan, who walked by foot with her companions from Marseille to Paris after a long ship trip, while the streets are bordered by an euphoric public exulting the unknown animal. Her trip took over a month until Paris. I don’t know how many post-colonial animals live in Pilsen´s Zoo, that is not really relevant, there are lots of stories to tell about the shielded xenarthran or the turtles. On a sunny Sunday afternoon in September 2015 there is (will be) an animal parade in the Pilsener Kilometer, always an animal from the zoo is leaded, hold, carried, pulled by a human. The whole kilometre along. Animal and human deep in talk. At some point of the path there is one or two tribunes with viewers (drinks, devotional objects, live music). When the animal-human couple passes by, everything is still and anyone can listen to what human and animal have to say to each other. And then and when a white elephant.

What was recently discovered is that the Kilometre is a natural laboratory that prepares the conditions for an experiment that need to be adopted: man wants to make audible the idiomatic communication between human and animal. The couples may have an especial relationship to each other, a long-term connection through visits or care at the zoo. Researchers, animal painters, dog trainers and dancers,... Maybe are they similar to each other. Maybe their friendship and professional relationships led to spectacular morphing effects. That needs to be examined. The parade is headed by the dead John Berger („Why We Look at Animals“) (optional also Dietmar Dath) and the living Donna Haraway („The Companion Species Manifesto“)

Because it is in Pilsen, humans with marionettes/ human objects/ robots parade and speak as well. And Donna Haraway again could lead the procession („Cyborg Manifesto“) with the dead Tadeusz Kantor („La classe morta“) (optional also Robert Wilson).

The parade is slow, it is extended over one whole day long, with many breaks and gaps, where the guests on the tribune shall talk to each other. And then comes again a couple passing by. It is a kind of general proof of possible couples for the next Noah’s Ark.

The whole Kilometre will be captured in one shot. When arrived in the Arena, There is a public photo shooting. Animal and human will be portrayed with the amphitheatre as backdrop. The resulting motifs will be later knitted on pillows, published on matchboxes, printed on fabrics and sold as wallpaper and sent on postcards. This is our contribution to the Cultural Capital Pilsen. All the products report of a huge species tolerance and relatedness. Therefore we declare: Pilsen 2015 – First NatureCultural Capital of Europe!

We open a shop in Pilsen and a branch filial in Prague, where we offer and sell all the products. The seller is feathered and talks theory.

What do you think?

Warm regards,
Hannah