A discussion on the categorisation of Animal / Human and its relationship to the phenomenon of “Show”.
Humans are animals, and to lump all other animals into one single category diametrically different from human animals is a part of the human-centric story about the relationship between “man and nature”. A story we in Animalarium reject as false and extremely dangerous as it is the narrative that has allowed humans to develop cultural and industrial practises leading to the current ecological crisis.
Furthermore, the categorisation human / animal is very imprecise. A human e.g. shares far more physically and cognitively with a dog than an earthworm. And more with a dog than a wolf, since the dog has evolved in symbiosis with humans for a long period.
In the end we all die, rot, and become earth. In the end we are the same matters, and humans are no different from the grass, the wind, and the sun.
By representing something more unconscious, unaware, wild or free the animal as a symbol is more associated with Being. And the human is, in this diametrical symbolic relationship, more associated with Show. When an animal is put in a show format, created by and for human animals, the relationship between the presence of a being and the shaping of the show format can become more visible.
In shows that contain domesticated and tamed animals we believe that some of these animals do know they are in a “show”. But our thought is that the horses, bears, dogs, monkeys, elephants etc. perceive the show they perform in from a different standpoint and therefore their perception on what it is they are doing in the show and why the show exists will be different than the humans doing or watching the show. This can differ from show to show – the dog and the human doing an agility competition together, probably has a quite similar perception of what the show is about. While the circus bear is probably unaware of the symbolism of wearing a pink tutu and how the tutu colours the human impression of the bear’s actions.
Other animals also create and perform shows either for their own species or for another species. There are mating shows, threatening shows, I-am-too-strong-and-healthy-to-be-chosen-as-a-prey show etc. created to communicate ideas or impressions of desirability, strength and such. The Thomson´s gazelle jumping high when discovering the lions are performing an interspecies symbolic show of strength and agility meant to communicate that they would be an unwise choice to try and catch. How “aware” the Thomson´s gazelle is of its choice is perhaps not so interesting to answer, more to observe that there emerges a moment of show between the gazelle and the lions as a part of the hunt. And that jumping high in a stylized manner is a very effective symbol of strength and agility reproduced by many species, including humans.
The difference between human animals and other animals is perhaps that human culture, society, and institutions are largely created by and maintained by various narratives. Shows are an expression of culture (or narratives) and because humans are a storytelling animal and we have many, many, many shows with several layers of meaning attached to them.