ich tier! (du mensch) – du tier! (ich mensch)

i animal! (you human) – you animal! (i human)

аз животно! (ти човек) – ти животно! (аз човек)

abrupt interspecies encounters


du tier! (ich mensch) at dienstgebäude, curated by isabel reiß and cathérine hug


Participating artists: bankleer, Christian Eisenberger, Klara Hobza, Lin May, Evi Rüsseler, Jens Ullrich, Nives Widauer.

Du Tier! (Ich Mensch)

… deals with the human view on animals.

From a purely natural scientific perspective animals are beings which cannot acquire energy from photosynthesis and need oxygen for breathing. This point of view does not allow a segregation between animal and human.

Nevertheless animals as personalized representatives of nature are used by humans to define and position themselves. The precarious question of the role and the significance of humans in the world is often approached through the demarcation between nature and culture. In the humanistic perception, e.g., men are categorized as rational animals. Kant says that although humans are animals, they are characterized by reason, and destined to cultivate themselves in society and moralize.

Nietzsche on the other hand explodes this moral hierarchy between man and animal.

For Nietzsche, life can be defended only aesthetically: „die Kunst und nichts als die Kunst“ (“art and nothing but art”). This said, man must bethink himself of his dark origins to do art. “Becoming-animal” Deleuze and Guattari phrase in “A Thousand Plateaus”. In animal territory marking they discern the initial art. Art in its purest form.

But not only the philosophical anthropological view on animals keeps changing in the course of history. The gender-specific animal attributions also keep adapting to the various sensibilities of different times.

In the twentieth century women are often designated as libidinous, intuitive (instinctive!) beings, which have to be led and ruled by men/the cultural beings.

A similar constellation could be found earlier in the relation between colonizers and colonized. Between the two world wars the image of women as instinct-driven creatures culminated in the figure of the Vamp. But the Vamp captivates and seduces precisely due to her animal force and thus gains a certain power. King Kong can be named as a representative of animal masculinity. The Island-King demonstrates physical power as a last defying struggle of this ideal of masculinity, which had long become obsolete with industrialization.

Just as it is the case with King Kong on the movie screen the animal world often gets accounted as something monstrous. In numerous B-Movies and Horrorfilms (The Curse of the Cat People (1944), It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955), Tarantula (1955), Frogs (1972), Jaws (1975), Shivers (1975), Empire of the Ants (1977), Alligator (1980), The American Werewolf (1981), Razorback (1984), The Fly (1986), Mosquito (1995), Spiders (2000), Frankenfish (2004), Slither (2006)) the established order gets turned upside down, whereby power relations get exemplarily tested and questioned. Allegories on social political issues are hereby produced.

As contemporary fables one could maybe describe the animation of the Pixarstudios. Jack Judith Halberstam proclaims in her lecture “Pixarvolt” (Shedhalle Zürich, 2007), that films as “Chicken Run”, “Finding Nemo” or “Monsters Inc” show anti-heroes, which offer alternative family concepts, identities and gender roles.

Not only in motion pictures the animal is a projection screen for human desires and wishes, but also in everyday life. The human love to pets has grown to an considerable extent, as Ullrich Seidel almost cynically portrays in his documentary “Animal Love”.

A further contemporary and escapist phenomenon of everyday culture is the popularity of such internet platforms where pictures of cute animals are displayed. Internet evaluations state that the frequency of visits to such sites comes closely after that to porn platforms. It also does not come as a surprise if on the site cuteoverload.com one of the top “Rules of cuteness” is stated as “mimic humans”.

Those various definitions of fauna the animals themselves face speechlessly. Since Donna Haraway it should be clear that biological behavior research, in her case studied with certain ape types, is always a mutual observation, where the two sides influence each other.

Donna Haraway describes it as a form of “becoming-together”, which goes far beyond the “becoming-animal” of Deleuze/Guattari. Here a field opens where species meet.

What interests us in the exhibition Du Tier! (Ich Mensch) are the various interpretations of animal considerations. Also the animal gaze back and how all this gets down in contemporary art. Hereby the selected works will not be forced in the mentioned discourse, but can also discover uncharted territories. This way coherences can be exposed which haven’t yet found their way into the current discourse. Last but not least Du Tier! (Ich Mensch) offers next to the gaze on the fauna at the same time a blatant look on the human self-conception.

Text: Isabel Reiss & Cathérine Hug