April 24-May 8
Location: I.E Gallery and room 285D, Intersections Digital Studios, Emily Carr University of Art + Design
Hours: 10am – 4pm, Monday to Friday
*exhibition is free and open to the public
Scholarly research within philosophy, environmental studies and critical animal studies proposes that our current environmental crisis is a consequence of long-standing beliefs that humans are distinct and separate from nature, and superior to other-than-human beings and the environment. Historically, how humans dominate other animals and the natural world has been described by philosophers since Aristotle; his contribution to the anthropocentric view of current culture introduced the idea of the “great chain of being” which defined the hierarchy of species groups privileging humans (Sorabji, 1993). Descartes’ later elaboration of anthropocentric beliefs argued that animals’ apparent lack of language was evidence of lack of thought and that animals are not active agents but natural automata (1985). More recently, Donna Haraway critiques the human use of categories such as “species” to separate humans from the environment: “drawings of inside-outside boundaries in knowledge are theorized as power moves, not moves towards truth.” (1991)
Interactive Futures 2014: More-Than-Human Worlds includes works from artists whose practice considers alternative conceptions of human relations with other animals and the environment. The exhibition includes independent artists, and faculty and graduate students of 4 partnering universities, Emily Car University of Art + Design, Ontario College of Art and Design, University of British Columbia Okanagan, and York University. The works address aspects of the thematic and use new technologies in the production of the work.
Philosopher Val Plumwood argues for a comprehensive reexamination of culture to restructure our relationships to nature, in order to consider the other-than-human in ethical terms (2002). She proposes the “intentional recognition stance”, which aims for the greatest range of sensitivity to Earth-others, accepting their agency in life, that they have intentions and goals and can initiate projects that demand our awareness and respect. She is critical of the idea that the language of any one species is the key to a theory of mind and of communication. She expands this by proposing a “communicative ethics” that would include embodied action as communication, along with considering scent-, phermone-, and sonic- based forms of mind. She proposes an “interspecies relationship” ethic that de-centres the human-centric, and moves towards a language of reciprocity, generosity, communication and compassion.
The exhibition includes works that consider compassion as an ontological lens of artistic investigation. More active than empathy, compassion calls for engagement to alleviate the suffering of others. Compassion considers the subjectivity of the other—moving beyond the self—and creates a space for inter-subjective action towards transformation.
Philosopher Jacques Derrida proposed employing “hyperbolic ethics” in relation to animal others, motivated by concepts such as ‘gift’ and ‘hospitality’ (2008). Hyperbolic ethics can be seen as giving to, a welcoming and thanking of the animal other. Hyperbolic ethics calls for constant vigilance, to determine if our choices are a reaction (created by our cultural influences, power structures, etc.) or if they are responsive to the needs of the individual other.
The artists in the exhibition have employed ethical practices as they relate to two aspects of art practice: representation, or how others are ‘pictured’; and interspecies relationships where real other-than-human animals participate in the production of the work. New technologies used in the production of the works have been applied in tactical and ethical ways to reveal the more-than-human-world and make what was otherwise hidden available to the percipient.