Friday, April 07, 2006

Interspecies communication...

Dr. Doolittle tried to talk with the animals. Gorillas are learning sign language. But who says a word-based language is the way to go? Dance seems like a more honest form of communication between a human and a beast. Our shared ground is a strong sense of motion, body language and the tiny fluxuations that occur within the other's nervous system. Do you dance with your dog or cat when no one is looking? Then you know what I mean. Those are some good conversations.

But it's not all about the jitterbug. There are deadly serious showdowns and longstanding gripes between species that require more final arguments. That bulls have a beef with us humans, that they instinctively hate us for eons of butchering and consuming their flesh, should come as no surprise. As humans, we invite them to challenge us in the ring, to express their anger in a balletic fight to the death. Granted it is our turf, our rules, but you could argue that the bulls and the cows aren't exactly offering theirs. As horrific as the carnage may be, bullfighting cuts deep in to our psyche, and at the very least is a dramatic reminder of our history of lording over the animals, and of the unseen daily mega-slaughter that keeps our burgers flipping on the grill.

On the other side of the fence, Natalie Jeremijenko's Ooz project is one fascinating experiment in interspecies communication where the animals have the advantage.

Like a zoo, Ooz is a series of sites where animals and humans interact. But it's a place where animals interact with humans by choice rather than because they're caged. Throughout the Ooz communication habitats (horses, ducks, water striders and bats), the animals can learn to control the human spectators by pressing the appropriately designed button or lever that communicates their wishes into human speech. For example, a button may trigger the recorded voice: "Yo! If you are going to stare, how ‘bout inserting 25cents and delivering a dose of that beaver biscuit!"

More Lucien Clergue photography here.

Learn to bullfight here.

Dr. Temple Grandin, the "real" Dr. Doolittle, info here.


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