LaminaRanimal, dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel, Germany, 2012


-LaminaRanimal- dOCUMENTA(13) Kassel, Germany 2012

It seems that Lutyens uses robots as metronomes, which track the process of rhythmanalytic interchange between an artist and an animal, disclosing what was always present: our bodies themselves are the metronomes which, by changing their frequency modulation, may stimulate and energize shared experiences. - Kristupas Sabolius

The onramp to other investigations was through a journey I had previously embarked on, into animal-human consciousness. CCB promised to make D13 different, and one of the primary genre- busting approaches was to move away from the heavily anthropocentric feeling of the previous Documenta, devised by artistic director Roger M. Buergel and curator Ruth Noack. There were many exhibits to do with animals and our relationship to them: Joan Jonas’s “Reanimation;” a cabin with videos of primordial animal expressions; and Pierre Huyghe’s psychotropic “Untilled,” a verdant wasteland guarded by a pink-pawed dog called Human and a hive-mind of bees situated atop the headless neck of a nude statue. As I had been working with reptiles and insects, I was invited to submit work to a cabin curated by the artist Tue Greenfort. The cabin was called the Worldly House and was described as “an Archive inspired by Donna Haraway’s Writings on Multispecies Co- Evolution.” My own work revolved around linking my unconscious responses to animals, including a bearded dragon, a boa constrictor, black widows, and brown recluses. Over a period of a few weeks on my studio-deck in Los Angeles, a robot traced lines as large-scale drawings in response to my heart rate as I tangled with these creatures.

-Animal Magnetism-

While the pragmatic space of animals is a function of inborn instincts, man has to learn what orientation he needs in order to act. - Christian Norberg-Schulz

The Worldly House was situated in a small cabin accessible by a narrow bridge that floated mirror-like above a pond. The cabin was once the home of black swans back in the 1950’s, and was later inhabited a family of raccoons, who were evicted from the cabin in the name of art (and multispecies co-evolution) just before D13. The first thing I did was send an Easter egg from Los Angeles as an offering from the swans to the raccoons, so they would forgive us for putting art above their basic interests. It was part joke, part earnest gesture. Then I submitted a video of my animal entanglements in Los Angeles, which joined the digital archive and research library inside the cabin. But it really started to get interesting when I managed to begin psychological experiments with Tue’s students from the Malmö Academy. The line between human and animal became more and more blurred, almost as if we were embarking on our own version of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, going ever deeper into the unconscious mind and unknown territories. Just as the Heart of Darkness is a frame narrative (a story within a story), mirroring the Grasshopper Lies Heavy, we were generating a story within the boundaries of the Worldly House, thereby rewriting the framework of the project in our own internal and collective way. The theme of animals migrated out of the Hypnotic Show itself, as one of the 48 encounters was an immersion into a crypto-zoo... “after all, the crypto-zoologist searches for and studies marginal creatures-such as the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, Unicorns, and Jackalopes–whose existence or survival remains unsubstantiated or disputed.” In keeping with the emergent and generative approach of the inductions, I avoided suggesting these easily pre-consumed tropes and encouraged visitors to come up with their own marginal creatures. Visitors came into close proximity to these living, breathing entities: an ancient beast with a large horn and wrinkles, a weird bird with white feathers who may have appeared to be friendly or perhaps had an evil intent behind the warmth, a mollusk embedded in a visitor’s belly. Someone else heard himself roar as if he had become the creature. A huge aggressive tiger and someone else sitting next to him had seen her animal change into another creature every time she ‘looked’ at it.

A local lady from Kassel was having difficulties finding her animal, but she suddenly had a strange apparition of a bear to her left and a man to her right. The intensity of her description just after the session gave me goose bumps, especially since someone had just talked of seeing a bear in the session before on a visit to the crypto-zoo. It seemed to me that these visualizations were becoming concretized in the space. Later she wrote this to me: “ After the session I lost my words a little bit ;) So I say it now—Thank you for this session. I love the picture with my bear und my man. This picture and the feeling of love are very big gifts for me.” That took me back to my first encounter with Nagualism in Mexico City. This practice is based on Pre-Colombian traditions of associating each calendar day with a specific animal, giving each person an animal spirit associated with their date of birth. In some cases, people with mystical powers in the community were designated to be Naghuals or brujos (witch doctors), and could shape-shift into their corresponding animal spirits. I was in Mexico City (the DF, defectuoso as the locals jokingly call it) for a few months and found myself in a small apartment with an elderly lady who was the mother of the curandera. The healer herself was a woman in her mid 40’s with a piercing look. She took me to the window and showed me a rain-formed stain on the blank side of a five-story building across the street that immediately looked to me in the shape of the Virgen de Guadalupe, even before she said it. Passing an egg over and around me, she explained to me that evil can be sucked out of the body into an egg yolk, and then finally turned and faced me and began to shape- shift into the form of a bird of prey, perhaps an eagle. Her hands became claw-like and her gaze narrowed until her eyes were just pin-points. She transformed completely in front of me, but perhaps she had found a chink in my armor of Western skepticism, and had overwhelmed me in a cascade of suggestions. I was face to face with this crypto-creature as it slowly moved its wings up and down. A couple of years after the visit, I heard that her housekeeper had tried to kill her with a large kitchen knife and successfully decapitated her mother. Such are the powers or psychoses at work in these shape-shifting worlds.

Going back to Tue’s students, we had decided to explore the theme of the crypto-animal through the lens of a hypnotic trance. The project was called LaminaRanimal, reflecting the palindromatic/mirrored abyss in which we were operating. We set a date one for the evening of August 20th and gathered at the black swans’ hut as the light was fading and the mosquitoes and raccoons were coming out of hiding. We had prepared some clay tablets in which the volunteers would be able to imprint their emotional expressions as they ventured deeper into this hybrid animal state of consciousness.

1. The way I breathed in and out made it easier for me to “become” this animal, as breathing connects humans and animals. Thoughts passed by but I did not register them. I had this very relaxed feeling without much control of the situation. All happened spontaneously and impulsively. I was in an animal form while, at the same time, I was conscious I was in an animal form while, at the same time, I was conscious fast. I am almost flying. On the inside of me it’s white. I have of my human body. It was a clash between conscious and unconscious. The animal that I imagined is a hybrid of different animals, and I turned more and more into a sort of creature. All of this took place in a very central spot in the Karlsaue Park. I had been in this area with high grass and huge trees once before but as there is no art to be seen, visitors to the park rarely go there. During the trance the space expanded into more levels under the earth. This animal, named something like Hysticus, with feathers on some parts of the body and fish scales on other parts, was crawling around in an enlarged, subterranean space. It seemed curious and quick, the size of a bear, but with enormous ears and legs more similar to human beings than animals. The smell was strong. - Maria Raffn

2. Red. Red. Red. An insect is biting me on my forearm, I am not sure it is my arm, as it is really far away from me, it is just one of many. I can perceive the sting penetrating the first level of my black and shiny skin, I feel it as it is happening in slow motion but I cannot push any buttons to go into the future to avoid the pain. It could be iron as it is incredibly harsh, sharp and cold, a black diamond is drilling into me, but there is just blood, no oil. Every millimeter it goes deeper the more it hurts, I can almost feel the epidermis cells breaking and the blood flowing out, an artery being destroyed by a sudden and massive air raid. The Jurassic birds around the house prevent me from hearing the sound of this skyscraper collapsing into me. I know I can’t do anything, the effect of the anesthetic the insect injected into me is fading. I do not want to feel this anymore, it is the most painful bite I have ever experienced, I want to hide myself, I am sure I could die if I get an other one. I begin to dig a cave in the soft material close to me that will be the shelter for my survival, the refuge for my black, shattered body. Kafka was right. - Chiara Ianeselli

3. I am. A being, adapted to the environment in which I thrive. A kind of cat. Cat-like features, cat-like fur, but not a cat in the sense of a domesticated creature. I feel wild. I live and move between the middle branches of trees in a damp forest, and the soft moist, leaf-covered bottom. The scent is rich, earthy. I dig through sediments. I dig for something alive, something underneath the leaves, roots and dirt. Ferocious and careful at the same time. - Joakim Dick Hedlund

4. I am surrounded by wood. There ground is covered by pine needles. Four feet makes it easy to run fast, in sync, really fast. I am almost flying. On the inside of me it’s white. I have brownish orange fur. It is thick and soft. I run slower. I stop. I look around as if I am the king of the forest, like Simba in “The Lion King.” Turning my head. This is my forest. There is a lot of sound but it is still and quiet. I stretch my toes and grab the grease under my left foot making a ball of the wet soil. - Ingrid Furre

5. Feeling my hands, the magnets on the inside of my hands. Focusing more and more on the space between my hands. Walking down some carpeted stairs. A deep northern forest, with tall, tall trees. Running fast, then walking slowly. Feeling moist moss under my feet. High up in the mountains. There are waters and hills and valleys. Blue skies, clouds. Staggering up and down. Feeling a bleating voice in my throat. No sound escapes. Clumsy jerking movements, executed in a leisurely manner. Electrified blue eyes. Robotic movements. The only sounds are of the wind and my own body. Feeling the clay. Wanting to eat the clay. Realizing that I am no longer a cybernetic sheep. - Mina Vattoy