In “Why look at Animals?” John Berger asked in his famous essay from 1977, in which he analysed the estrangement of humans and animals in the culture of capitalism. His criticism of the zoo as a place in which non-human animals are reduced to exhibition objects is still read and shared today. Interestingly, aquariums were, for a long time, exempt from this criticism. Even the early aquarists criticised zoos as prisons, but were at the same time convinced that the aquarium was something completely different – namely a part of the sea.
In VISITING OCTOPUS we enter into contact with individual octopuses that live in environments designed and controlled by humans. In the sense of a multispecies ethnography we chronicle two interwoven narratives. Firstly, our own perception of the situation: the different actors, such as, for example, the glass, the architecture, the visitors. Secondly we attempt a change of perspective, by seeing the world through the eyes of the octopus. For this we experiment with methods of obtaining insight that create a connectedness; in particular we work with mental techniques of empathy such as those used by animal communicators and shamans.
Ute Hörner and Mathias Antlfinger joined the Academy of Media Arts Cologne as professors for “Transmedial Spaces/Media Art” in 2009. Their installations, videos and sculptures deal with the relationships between humans, animals and machines and provide both: critical perspectives on changeable social constructs as well as utopian visions of fair interactions between these parties. Together with the grey parrots Clara and Karl they have been working as Interspecies Collaboration CMUK since 2014. Their works have been shown at international exhibitions and festivals, including CCA Tbilisi, ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, Shedhalle Zuerich, NMFA Taiwan, Ars Electronica Linz, Werkleitz Biennale Halle, Museum Ludwig Cologne, KAC Istanbul, and transmediale Berlin.