Accepted Paper:

The animal point of view? The use of crittercams in contemporary art  

Author:

Jessica Ullrich (University of the Arts Berlin)

Paper short abstract:

The paper discusses films shot with the help of animal "cameramen" in order to simulate the animals' own points of view. Central issues are the partial displacement of the concept of the author and the (im-)possibility of adopting a non-human point of view with the help of technological decives.

Paper long abstract:

Animals have long been used in films as metaphors, symbols or as screens on which to project all kinds of things.

Such depictions of animals are based on the idea of a hierarchy of living creatures, with superior active human subjects forcing inferior passive animals, as objects, into their representations.

In light of the decay of the anthropocentric worldview and the postulated "death of the author", this categorical distinction is starting to look decidedly wobbly.

In recent years films have been appearing in which animals are accorded a degree of autonomy and subjectivity as partners or agents, though animals are rarely the authors of works of art in a literal sense.

In my paper I shall discuss the production of films shot with the help of animal "cameramen" in order to simulate or reveal the animals' own points of view.

The central issues I shall address are the partial displacement of the concept of the author in the direction of non-human co-authors, the artistic aims of the human filmmakers, and the (im-)possibility of adopting a non-human point of view.

I shall take as examples the video installation of Jana Sterbak for the Venice Biennale in 2003, for which the footage was shot by her terrier Stanley; the dogcam project of Nabuhira Narumi; and the series of works created from the point of view of animals by Sam Easterson, who equipped wolves, tarantulas and armadillos with helmet-mounted video cameras.

Panel P13
Encountering living things through technology