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


ich tier! (du mensch) at perla-mode,
curated by dimitrina sevova


Participating artists: Sabina Baumann, Beni Bischof, eggerschlatter, huber.huber, Line Skywalker Karlstrøm, Jakob Lena Knebl, Flo Maak, Hans Scheirl, Gisèle Schindler, Bertold Stallmach.


The starting point of the project is the exclusive, unforeseen encounter with a non-human living being, an incidental everyday event, and the communication space opening up in it, looking at the encounter as a real event, a material face-to-face with something other in the topos of Encounters. These non-standard, proto-ethical encounters remain “below the radar of language,” where things can be seen as really existing outside ourselves – not internal to the mind like those described by psychoanalysis. The materiality of the encounter lies in the thesis of the advantage of the positive over the negative (Deleuze). We have here in mind this specific immediacy, openness and positive attitude with which a child discovers the world around it for the first time, the way the child is sincerely enraptured and turns in unprejudiced friendship to the first objects coming into its view and hold, led by the impulses of its enormous curiosity and desire to discover all things in its surrounding. Looking, touching, falling, tasting things the child builds its own relations with them before the things have been named, defined and ordered through linguistic and cultural constructions. We are searching for, or rather, trying to rediscover an unprejudiced and open approach to encountering things. There is no greater pleasure than the shared pursuit of truth, seen by Deleuze as the true communicational space of friendship. (DS)

Ich Tier! (Du Mensch)

Curatorial Statement

Ich Tier! (Du Mensch) – Du Tier! (Ich Mensch) proposes an art platform located across two independent spaces, Perla-Mode and Dienstgebäude in Zurich, with a series of common parallel events and a publication. The title of the project produces a surface or mirror effect inviting the spectator to “a locus for dialogue or for confrontation.” It implies an unstable drifting nature, undetermined, playfully aping a primitive language in “a clear opening toward the other” – in the manner of a tourist or castaway on unfamiliar ground making attempts at communicating without knowing the other’s language, led by need or positive feelings. It meanders between opposite meanings in a moiré of overlapping patterns turning into one another, merging dichotomies and thus undermining their deeply ingrained asymmetrical effect on self-other relations, and specifically human-animal relations. With its performative character it serves as a conceptual bridge between the two parts of the exhibition and the two art spaces.

The idea of the project is not to “advocate here something like a ‘return to nature’ ”. Rather to devote our energy to transgressing the limited formal vocabulary upon which our own privileges as participants in the present consumer culture stand. Language magnifies the human perception of reality. Interesting to us are the shady places in which the categorical boundaries between human and animal are blurred. Of particular importance is a consideration of the history of modernity as a project of progress in which “animals figured principally as a resource for human progress.” Following present debates around the social and cultural forces of change, we witness how perceptions in a broader public space are altered towards “respect for the animal being” as this space opens up under the confrontation of our immediate reality with the digital and global dynamic environment of a planet in crisis, reaching the limits of natural resources. These shape conceptual horizons in which humans do not perceive themselves as total owners of the environment. We share a special commitment to creating a cultural ecosystem in which a variety of ideas co-exist and interact without giving rise to linear structures, without turning into ideological clichés.

The project brings together a constellation of artists who handle the fruitful topic of animal-humans relations. Their works of art are saturated with intensities, using a range of art devices derived from reality and fiction, narrative and criticism, wisdom, rituals, phantasmagorias, science, feelings or passions, exoticism all the way to banal truths. In a swelling environment of strangeness the art objects depict phenomena of an entirely different nature and reveal specific differences. The exhibition offers a space in which all is possible, from emotional charge to critical questions, from new aesthetic principles to responsibility and obligations towards other beings. Playing with their own context of aesthetic art objects with a conceivable somatic identity, they direct our thoughts to the body with its frailty and vulnerability. Their strategy is to liberate the living forms from nature, to liberate animals from humans, from the domination of the discursive, and ultimately to liberate art from the representative. Their works reflects on disturbing, hidden, secret, impenetrable, unsettling issues, shunned in the formal routines of contemporary everyday life, occasionally comprehended as taboo in an unwritten ethical codex. The exhibition offers to the spectator a disturbing topography of terra incognita. It evokes a broad spectrum of disturbing subject matter like disgust, disembodiment, mortality, constraint, the unfathomable, vulnerability, fears, disease, decomposition, deterioration, aggression, superstition, cruelty, commodification, mutilations, variability, beauty. The viewer will be seduced to confront things that apparently will never be fully uncovered, things provoking embarrassment, escaping through the cracks of a fractured organization of knowledge, a broken order of things ringing false in the context of Western rationality. The confrontation with the simple fact of the uniformity and ambiguity of death for instance leaves us dizzy. These are no gloomy thoughts, but rather a world of wonder that “seems a melancholic negation of Utopian arguments” in the face of the circumstance of the terrifying mutability of live matter. A glaring mold of immaterial, indistinguishable, fragmentary ephemera underlining the temporality of thinking.

The display will trace a path through invisible categories and conflicts, exploring the social logic of “the ways in which power creates forms of subjectivity,” as an approach to an aesthetic appreciation of power, speed pleasure, pain, love. Animals have “infinite capacity to respond to human desires,” be they pets, livestock or wild animals. They also leave things behind that we easily develop addictions for. In face of the swamp of our own emotions and our claim of being rational beings, “animals serve to rupture notions of identity and sameness.” Humans' relations with animals highlight hierarchies of gender, race and class while raising questions bound to how we understand otherness, questions of visibility, of how to deal with postcolonial traumas and other forms of inequalities.

“Ich Tier! (Du Mensch) – Du Tier! (Ich Mensch),” “like an oddity at a freak show” will feature fluid identities and proliferate thinkable “absurd” existences among living beings adopting “radical multiplicity” or relations between singularities as they are characteristic of life. This allows us to elaborate the idea of a universe inhabited by different species where so-called “plants”, “animals”, or “humans” generate a comedic space “in an existential theater of the absurd.” Looking at man as a rather a funny creature, something less than perfect, the exhibition brings to the viewer a seductive quality and a special carrier of humor as a tool to disrupt categories and shift boundaries in order to escape ruling concepts, whether they stem from science, from culturally ingrained stereotypical “truths” and comprehension. It blends the purity of scientific principles and pseudo-scientific investigative techniques with the impurity of intellectual whimsy, stereotypical truths or beliefs.

The exhibition does not aim to find the borders of the human or to define the animal. It is not our intention to set up new definitions, but rather to try at least for an instant “to think about animals as living biological organisms, rather than as creatures of the literary and philosophical imagination.” This does not mean sacrificing the principles of imaginative suggestion in favor of reality. According to Deleuze and Guattari, writing about Franz Kafka, “there is no longer a tripartite division between a field of reality (the world) and field of representation (the book) and a field of subjectivity (the author).” Our idea is to attempt to unbolt an awkward door to open, on to a territory beyond metaphysical boundaries and binary divisions between living forms.

Text by Dimitrina Sevova