[-empyre-] Vivophilia’s Excesses

Adam Zaretsky vastalschool at gmail.com
Wed Oct 18 17:30:32 AEDT 2017

Please understand if I am a voice of reverberation... time is life
currently in fits and starts of incompleteness, the trying to keep upness
that leads to an inevitable impending dementia as release from homo
tabulatus. I can feel it coming... until then, here are some notes for a
lab I like to hold on Animal Enrichment Arts. It relates to the problem of
experimental/relational design in the crosstalk about behaviorism and
collaboration with non-humans. There is also the problem of humans often
being equal if not synonymous to non-humans in every way. Knowing how not
to be pedantic or ‘collaborating well’ may be easier than we think. :

The impetus of this lab is to insure the safety and emotionally therapeutic
value of an enrichment device. By talking through some of our ideas and
actions, we focused on the responsibility to thoroughly research any beings
to be enriched, before designing and actuating an enrichment device. Our
students were taught various research methodologies towards comprehending
another organism’s priorities, preferences and perceptions. After talking
about the concepts we had drawn, we discussed how our conceptual devices
might be received by actual, non-anthropomorphized beings.

An example video is here: VASTAL - Ethology and Art for Non-Humans:
Enrichment Arts Lab https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aq223EvlUOg&t=2509s

For the lab, we draw conceptual devices:

For free living non-humans
To give captive non-humans control
For other senses, not our own

The devices are meant to:

Elicit play
Simulate control of the environment by the animals
Reduce stress
Show animal individuality
Show animal group dynamics
Show animal problem solving
Show quality and integrity of animal consciousness
Show enrichment of a particular animal personality
Elicit sexual exuberance

Art for non-humans labs convert the use of life as a biomedia into ‘contact
with’ and ‘gifts for’ other life as the medium of artistic expression.
Unfortunately, the stewardship involved in taking the role of enrichment
provider assumes that behavioral service leadership is the best tactic for
a non-human’s benefit. see the ZooKeepers guide to Species specific
Enrichment Device development: The Shape of Enrichment

Actual enrichment technology is not very developed as a practice. The
concept is new and due to general underfunding, the administration of
professional enrichment is usually spare, both technologically and
aesthetically. This problem of “what to do” as a body, to a body, for a
body and with a body in relation to the world of living beings is meant to
be amplified and left hanging as an artistic production for the purpose of
conveying a dilemma. It is presumed that the stimulation of debate is based
on the opening up of radical de-categorization. The lab is meant as a
primer to open up the way we think about the lives of others, leaving those
involved with more informed and wider questions than they had before the

This lab is also a guide to assist the participants in becoming aware of
how much of our cultural landscape is actually behavioral training
entertainment built to make our containment seem more inviting. Enrichment
devices are figured into gross national products as acceptable extras
towards an economy of voluntary submission: television, organized sports,
spectacular wars, cheap fast food and the intermittent reward of the
occasional winning lottery ticket. Perhaps, the decentering of human
exceptionalism comes from the other side, not as benevolent interspecies
practitioners of “the white man’s burden,” (“To wait in heavy harness,  On
fluttered folk and wild—Your new-caught, sullen peoples, Half-devil and
half-child” (Rudyard Kipling, “The White Man's Burden,” McClure's Magazine
, February 1899, 12).), but as an analysis of why we sub-humans are showing
signs of behavioral stress. This frames all human beinghood as a
scrutinized, trained primate subset of non-human organismness. Stuck in a
culture of containment, the symptoms of living in a maze of regimes, forced
into all sorts of joys – both tepid and tame, aware that work is made to
keep us busy and that play is canned to keep us lightly engaged, enrichment
arts are a way of uncovering our own acculturated, lived propaganda.

Additional intentions of these labs are:
1. To make art for a non-human audience
2. To spread an odd understanding of ethology in its complicated
relationship between behavior, culture, personality (psychology) and
philosophy (i.e., animal studies or Deleuze’s ethology)
3. To aid in public understanding of the similarities, differences and
possible power relations between humans, non-humans and posthumans as
4. To be considerate in caring for captive non-humans
5. To take an active and hands-on tactical stance on these issues while
aiding in the comprehension of the potential for pedantic politics and the
physical and emotional responsibilities of non-human enrichment
6. To gain access to some non-humans and to inquire through trans-species
communication as to their aesthetic preferences and methods of expressing
of art critique
7. To wonder at human culture and personality through the lens of assessing
human needs as if we were just another non-human in captivity, showing
signs of alienation.
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au/pipermail/empyre/attachments/20171018/4277128e/attachment.html>

More information about the empyre mailing list