Monkeys, Mixtures and Magnamanities…


Movements for animal rights are not irrational denials of human uniqueness; they are a clear sighted recognition of connection across the discredited breach of nature and culture.

~Donna Haraway, from the Cyborg Manifesto, in Simians, Cyborgs and Women (1991)

Jacques Derrida on “Animals”

A mash-up of thinkers whose writing style, content and intellectual dexterity that inspires me and influences my work.

And so it is 🙂

Donna Haraway reads the National Geographies of Gorillas: Margie & KoKo

From spectacle to suburbs: “Race, Culture and Class are recoded at the boundary of nature and culture

This special tv feature disturbed me in multiple ways; the first is that the zoo and scientists co-signed on the forceful abduction of Michael from his home, family and social relations only to be airlifted to the science-fictionesque California lab setting. His life trajectory was altered so that he would serve as a consort, and in the retelling, it seems that there was no qualm about the “ethics” of doing so. Another disturbing fact is the hypothesis that  “we” (humans) could / would come to “understand” the “mentality” of another “species” through the use of sign-language as two-way “communication”; As a thinking, feeling being, this tells me that they had no sense of the ways that  human “language” is socio-temporally situated and is therefore not generalize-able to any and all experiences. Even if the words used may refer to some reasonably understandable thing, meaning, intent and underlying assumptions are never exact from one communicator to the receiver. Language is a tool that shapes understanding, thought, perception and notions of self and other. The underlying assumption is that scientists gave the gorillas a tool to express internal events. In fact, scientists acted upon the gorillas with the language-tool to show them to use that same uninvited tool to further, irrevocably change themselves, their perception and experiences.

No great inter-species understanding was accomplished here. That which the two gorillas expressed was unique to the experiences of two captive gorillas living in the bizarre human contexts of laboratory and suburb.

So I ask, just was inter-species understanding was truly achieved by this work? That “gorillas” feel emotions and have the desire and ability to communicate, and form deep, intense and persistent social bonds? these are things we learned by simple observation.

Projects like these to me have the appeal of fetish. The object of interest is not real for its true role, rather for its assumed entertainment value in an imbalanced power relationship.

I hadn’t expected to go this route when I posted the videos, however viewing them all in succession prompted these thoughts that I share with you today.

What is your takeaway from these videos?

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