Saturday’s event was the above lecture presented at the Blue Oyster Art Project Space by Dr Cecilia Novero of the German Department at the University of Otago.  The art discussed was Frank by Jenny Gillam.  Five small video screens are displayed on three walls.  Frank, a young terrier, is recorded by five still cameras as he investigates the art gallery.  He goes around the walls sniffing them and is well behaved that he doesn’t mark his territory.  He stops and investigates a floor level speaker producing bird-song.  The scene is evocative of the famous trade-mark, His Master’s Voice.  Eventually he loses interest and goes on his way.  The videos recycle and they are not synchronous.  There is a lot of time when the viewer is looking for Frank in the gallery’s empty space as he disappears from view.  The viewer can move from screen to screen looking for him.

Frank does not interact with the cameras.  Whenever I see a dog on television reaching out to sniff the camera I move in closer so I can physically interact with the dog.  I want to get closer to the animal, engage it on its level of vision, which is a lower perspective than that of a human; to know the touch of its nose, and the smell of its fur.  Being on a screen this is impossible.  The viewer cannot know if Frank imagines the art space in the same way as the visitor.  Indeed it is unlikely.  We cannot know what he was smelling.  We weren’t there at the same time, otherwise we would have related to Frank on the screen.  We are in the same space, the difference in time separates us.  We cannot share with Frank what he smells and to what he listens as his sense of smell and hearing are distinct from ours and more finely tuned.

I am so afraid of people’s words.
They describe so distinctly everything:
And this they call dog and that they call house,
here the start and there the end.

I worry about their mockery with words,
they know everything, what will be, what was;
no mountain is still miraculous;
and their house and yard lead right up to God.

I want to warn and object: Let the things be!
I enjoy listening to the sound they are making.
But you always touch: and they hush and stand still.
That’s how you kill.

Rainer Maria Rilke, In Celebration of Me, 1909

I learnt that when Post-humanism gets mixed up it becomes Compost-humanism, post-humanism mixed with other things, its own melange.  When Dr Novero mentioned a feminist whose feminism had ‘gone to the dogs’, especially the ones she lived with, I wondered if this could count as ‘caninism’, but I jest.  It was a fun way to share a cold afternoon.  It challenges my apres-garde sensibilities of art.

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