A Gallery of Octopus Aesthetics
'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 their contribution to Okto-Lab Ute Hörner and Mathias Antlfinger enter into contact with individual octopods that live in environments designed and controlled by humans. In the sense of a multi-species ethnography they chronicle two interwoven narratives. Firstly, their own perception of the situation: the different actors, such as, for example, the glass mentioned before, the architecture, the visitors. Secondly they attempt a change of perspective, by seeing the world through the eyes of the octopods. For this the artists experiment with methods of obtaining insight that create a connectedness; in particular they work with mental techniques of empathy such as those used by shamans or animal communicators.
The contribution 'Visiting Octopus' to OctoLab 19 by Ute Hörner and Mathias Antlfinger is supported by the exhibition funding programme of ifa.