You do not have to
Look for anything, just
— Ann Lewin
You do not have to
Look for anything, just
— Ann Lewin
Glass of Water and Coffee Pot (oil on canvas, 1760)
Many things gave me completeness
They did not only touch me
My hand did not merely touch them,
• Pablo Neruda, “Ode to Things”
Jack Kirby from Alarming Tales #1, September 1957
David Livingstone Smith
Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave and Exterminate Others
St. Martin’s Press, 2011
The Moral Lives of Animals
Bloomsbury Press, 2011
Paul A. Trout
Deadly Powers: Animal Predators and the Mythic Imagination
Prometheus Books, 2011.
Fear of the Animal Planet: The Hidden History of Animal Resistance
AK Press, 2010
The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival
In the last decade, human vanity has taken a major hit. Traits once thought to be uniquely, even definingly human have turned up in the repertoire of animal behaviors: tool use, for example, is widespread among non-human primates, at least if a stick counts as a tool. We share moral qualities, such as a capacity for altruism with dolphins, elephants and others; our ability to undertake cooperative ventures, such as hunting, can also be found among lions, chimpanzees and sharks. Chimps are also capable of “culture,” in the sense of socially transmitted skills and behaviors peculiar to a particular group or band. Creatures as unrelated as sea gulls and bonobos indulge in homosexuality and other nonreproductive sexual activities. There are even animal artists: male bowerbirds, who construct complex, obsessively decorated structures to attract females; dolphins who draw dolphin audiences to their elaborately blown sequences of bubbles. Whales have been known to enact what look, to human divers, very much like rituals of gratitude.
The discovery of all these animal talents has contributed to an explosion of human interest in animals — or what, as the human-animal gap continues to narrow, we should properly call “other animals.” We have an animal rights movement that militantly objects to the eating of nonhuman animals as well as their enslavement and captivity. A new field of “animal studies” has sprung up just in the last decade or so, complete with college majors and academic journals. Ever since the philosopher Peter Singer’s groundbreaking 1976 Animal Liberation, one book after another has attempted to explore the inner lives and emotions of nonhuman animals. Bit by bit, we humans have had to cede our time-honored position at the summit of the “great chain of being” and acknowledge that we share the planet — not very equitably or graciously of course — with intelligent, estimable creatures worthy of moral consideration.
But it will take more than a few PETA protests or seasons of the Discovery channel to cut humans down to size. Contempt for animals is built into our languages: think of the word “bestial” or fressen, the German word for the distinctive way animals are thought to eat. In the great monotheistic religions, human superiority is as much taken for granted as the superiority of God over humans. Nonhuman animals were created in the service of humans, as if the deity wanted to leave us with a fully-stocked refrigerator. They offer up their flesh, their pelts and often their labor, and that, as Immanuel Kant saw it, was their mission on earth.
|89 notes||10:20pm 8/6/2011|
Perhaps, at its best, sentimentality strives for something approximating the theological virtues of hope and love. But in refusing to see the world as it is, sentimentality reduces hope to nostalgia. And in seeking to escape ambiguity and the consequences of the Fall, it denies the heart of love, which is compassion. Unless compassion means the act of suffering with the other in their otherness, it becomes meaningless. Well-intentioned as the purveyors and consumers of sentiment may be, they still want the luxury of an emotion without having to pay the price for it.
"The Painter of Lite" in Intruding Upon the Timeless
This exhibition was made possible with funds provided by the ICP Acquisitions Committee and with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.
Anyway, the whole of the human condition is on artful and accessible display at the ICP through August – our destructive power, our power for good and for mercy, foibles and ironic defenses against the inroads of age and injustice, and a powerful humanity which rests, in fact, on our understanding of our participation in the “mortality, vulnerability, [and] mutability” of the world and each other.
United States Strategic Bombing Survey, Physical Damage Division, [Charred boy’s jacket found near Hiroshima City Hall], November 5, 1945. International Center of Photography
In addition to the rubble and less-than-rubble of virtually everything within the bomb’s reach, the most devastating photo (to me) was of a boy’s coat, hung over the back of a chair, showing smoldering and charring. No mention was made as to what happened to the boy who had been wearing the coat when the bomb detonated.
United States Strategic Bombing Survey, Physical Damage Division, [Steel stairs warped by intense heat from burned book stacks of Asano Library, Hiroshima], November 15, 1945. International Center of Photography
So, based upon a geographical survey of Hiroshima, the small photographs are mounted on the walls in relation to each other. What makes them horrible is the scientifically precise definition of the physical effects of the bomb’s deployment, e.g., notes as to spalling and flash marks created by the blast, the attention paid to the warping of steel stairs in a library which now consists of nothing but ashes from the books (and presumably from the people who were there). They are clinical surveys of an evil that probably only could be communicated in this way.
This last exhibition is collected in a single, harrowing room. The Museum’s own literature describes the context:
"After the United States detonated an atomic bomb at Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, the U.S. government restricted the circulation of images of the bomb’s deadly effect. President Truman dispatched some 1,150 military personnel and civilians, including photographers, to record the destruction as part of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey. The goal of the Survey’s Physical Damage Division was to photograph and analyze methodically the impact of the atomic bomb on various building materials surrounding the blast site, the first "Ground Zero." The haunting, once-classified images of absence and annihilation formed the basis for civil defense architecture in the United States. This exhibition includes approximately 60 contact prints drawn from a unique archive of more than 700 photographs in the collection of the International Center of Photography. The exhibition is organized Erin Barnett, Assistant Curator of Collections."
|theme by conkers||older|