Zooësis and Contemporary Art : Animal, Plant, and Machine Ontologies: Art Representations Beyond the Human

University essay from Stockholms universitet/Institutionen för kultur och estetik

Abstract: What does it mean to take Animals, Plants, and Machines seriously when engaging in hybrid natures such as bioart, plant-art, taxidermy art and cyborgs in contemporary art?  Traditionally within art history the focus has been on human culture as the fundamental underpinning for cultural behaviour and productions, consequently rendering animal and plant histories invisible from the analysis of artworks. In this thesis I attend to the bodies of animals, plants, and machines put in the context of the zooësis (places/contact zones) of these bodies as biopolitical aesthetics (aesthetic bodies/objects) in contemporary art. Followingly, also attending to the histories of animals, plants, and machines in human societies and culture.  Situated within the interdisciplinary field of Human-Nonhuman-Animal Studies, or Anthrozoology, the aim in this thesis is to examine the meaning of animals, plants, and machines beyond representation, symbolism and mythology in contemporary art. In other words, this thesis analyses the representations of animal, plant, and cyborg bodies as actant aesthetic (organic and mechanical) objects, in art, literature, and media. Particular focus is payed to the hybrid natures founded in the taxidermy art of Berlinde De Bruyckere; in the bioart and transgenic plant-art of Špela Petrič; in the hybrid hyperrealist sculptures and bioethics of Patricia Piccinini; and in the hybrid artifacts, or “technoanimalism” of Tove Kjellmark. 

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