Art for Animal Audiences


Prof. Jessica Ulrich

A conversation on Performances for Pets on the occasion of Animal Forms & Formulas – On the human-animal-relation in contemporary performance, Presented at Sophiensaele, Berlin

Krõõt Juurak and Alex Bailey have been performing for pets over 90 times in different European cities since 2014. They invite pet owners to book performances that last about 20 minutes and usually take place in the pets home. This artwork is primarily but not exclusively aimed at an animal audience. I say not exclusively because otherwise we couldn’t talk about the work at such an event. Although Performances for Pets are created solely for appreciation by pets, their human companions are invited to join and view the performance. So Performances for Pets offer opportunities for bodily as well as cognitive experiences for at least two different species. There is something to learn from Performances for Pets for humans, too. Cats, dogs, and if they wish their human companions sense the dancelike as well as animal like movements of the two human performers, their attitudes, the unusual bodily positions, the interaction between the performers, the sounds, the smells. Each performance is adapted to the interests of the pet based on preliminary briefings of their owners. But as cats and dogs experience the performances with all their senses there are probably experiencing them in many ways that are inaccessible for humans.

The artists explicitly address pets, not wild animals, not farm animals or zoo animals. In indeed there is a special bond between humans and the animals we call pets. Humans and dogs but also cats share a millennia-old co-evolution and co-habitation. The history of domestication can no longer be regarded as a one-way development but as a mutual taming. Just as much as early humans made dogs, early dogs made homo sapiens.

Co-evolution altered not only behavior and brains of both partners but also their genes.

link to the full article