David Přílučík

  • Czech Republic (b. 1991 in Zlín)
  • Currently in Prague, Czech Republic.
train for mutuality

train for mutuality

  • 2015

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    Train for mutuality | 2015

For this reason I picked up John Berger's essay again, the one titled "Why Look at Animals?" which David himself had recommended to me some time ago. Written sometime at the end of 70's, it now in the context of current philosophical thinking seems like a part of longer tradition, or rather an undercurrent of attempting to reconsider the sharply drawn line between culture and nature, between res cogitans and res extensa, between subject and object. I'm lead to believe, that the criticism does not lie in claiming that the division is wrong in its positivist sense. It is rather ethics (a manual of conduct in the world), that leads the argument against the enlightenment/modernist line. Math is right, the result is correct - the consequences are horrid. Ruthless exploitation of all the natural resources, debatable animal testing, inexcusable industrial farming. Those that don't speak, the others, they have no rights. To make matters even worse, the category of "the other" often swallows up also those members of our own species, that happen to not speak our language, share the same cultural or national identity. Enters animism. Or perhaps makes a comeback - as a remedy, an antidote to totalitarian claims of the enlightenment revolution. And it's not the return of the unknown, it has has been with us despite several centuries of reeducation. A ghost is haunting modernity—the ghost of animism, writes Anselm Franke in the introductory text to conference and exhibition titled Animismus. Animism is defined as a system of religious belief or world-view usually seen in indigenous cultures, claiming that non-human entities - as animals, plants and inanimate objects - possess "soul" or "spiritual essence" and therefore subjectivity. Ethical considerations arise from this understanding of the world: subjects have their rights, feelings and pride. They are surrounded with an aura of sacred. It is not possible to just take from them, for it would be stealing. Humans in a natural environment need to survive nonetheless, so if they need something, they ask. When they get it they say thank you. This is obviously unimaginable on the industrial scale. It is important to bear in mind, that animist belief is not some abstraction, but rather a practice, a practical technology for life. The line of positive reevaluation of indigenous cultures in the discourse of western civilisation has its milestones and I don't mean the New Age movement or other such counterculture phenomena. We can find this resonance in Marcel Mauss' essay on gift , in the work Georges Bataille , Deleuze and Guattari's work, Bruno Latour in more recent years and well as the fresh project of object oriented onthology. The animist turn already has practical outcome. In 2008 Ecuador, for example, has established the first constitution that guarantees the rights to non-human subjects. It is a project of decolonizing the nature. It was about time. Let's hope it's not too late. But let's get back to how David is looking at animals. The title "Train for Mutuality" can immediately be read as a call to (for the sake of survival, ours and theirs, all of us) reeducating ourselves to respect subjectivity of animals or in fact all other non-human entities. I was lead down this path of thinking also by the posters showing a human and an animal face to face. We can say it is a ridiculously utopian call, one worthy of tie-die New Age fairies or a cover of a Jehova's Witness magazine. And thus we reach the irony: the choice of the appropriated footage used in the video pulls the rug from under our feet. To the monotonous hypnotic beat we are shown videos of often rather bizarre ways how humans today, "Homo liberfacii" , imagine contact with an animal. Here exemplified by snakes, creatures of a rather problematic reputation. Each video only shows up for a brief moment, just enough for us to gasp "…watta…?!" in utter disbelief of what we are looking at. Nevertheless even the grotesqueness of these clumsy attempts at mutuality mirrors the process of subjectification of non-human entities. You can find it all over the Facebook, lizard hugging with a kitty, dog talking to a dolphin, group of beach goers pulling hapless shark stranded on the beech back to the sea, chimps and orangutans tell us their heartbreaking stories in sign language. Don't tell me it's not expansion of human consciousness, and I frankly don't care a cat's whisker if it sounds esoteric. These are the thoughts that come to mi mind as I'm being hypnotised by the regular pulse of the blue screen with the words of the mysterious mutuality manifesto. As I have hopefully shown, it sounds all very banal when put into words. I appreciate David's stubborn silence, as he grins there mysteriously. The technology of sacred requires that we approach it very seriously and with laughter of ironic distance at the same time. This is the knowledge of the chaosmagick as well as Yukaghir hunters of Siberia, but it is inaccessible to modern humanity under the tyranny of a uniform ideology. It is not important that animist way of thinking is somehow flawed (from a certain perspective), what matters is practical consequences it has for the human interaction with the world. We therefore call for a change of paradigm: let's try to imagine what it would be like to live in a world, where we are in constant dialogue with non-human entities as if they were human. Always say "please" and "thank you", especially for broccoli. This is the direction towards real mutuality, across that unhappy divide between human and nature. Surprisingly, humour might just be the best method of learning this technology. Radim Labuda