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e. Menura Supurba: Post human dreams of ersatz animals.

By Gavin J. Sade and Priscilla Bracks


This paper discusses human and post-human relationships with nature and animals, using the work e. Menura Superba1 as a focal point. This interactive artwork takes the form of a Lyre bird in a cage, that mimics it’s audience in evocative ways. It is inspired by the historical practice of displaying taxidermy specimens and live species as trophies of travels to distant lands, and as symbols of wealth and status. In both form and intent the work hybridises elements from Enlightenment culture, with materials that conjure associations with dystopic post human futures (wire, post consumer electronic & other waste, as well working parts such as mobile phone screens, LED’s, camera, and cabling etc). Speculative science fiction, such as Phillip K Dick in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Blade Runner), provides prescient stories about future (post) human worlds. This novel remains thought provoking as it describes a world that is all to rapidly approaching: where human activity has caused the destruction of most large animal species. In this fictional world, care for animals is not only a civic duty, it is one of the ways humans distinguish themselves from androids. As in Enlightenment times, ownership of animals (real, taxidermies, ersatz) is a form of commodity fetishism indicative of social status. Though whilst well heeled Victorians may have owned an elephant or have been proud of a trophy specimen, the wealthy in Dick’s future must be content with once common, even ersatz, animals such as sheep and owls, and would be repulsed to the core by the notion of killing an animal, even an ersatz animal, for sport. In becoming post human, humans have sought to separate themselves from the natural world, destroying much of it in the process. No technical prothesis will bring back to life the species we have rendered extinct. This (evolving) relationship between humanity and other species, therefore forms a central question in this work, providing a way of approaching the post human, and problematising anthropocentric perspectives. The world promised by post-human technology is indeed rich with possibility, but without corresponding steps to ensure the sustainability of technology (human society), this paper asks whether the richness of that experience will continue to be mirrored by the richness of the environments within which we exist

Topics: 190203 Electronic Media Art
Publisher: ISEA
Year: 2009
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