The Zoo in the Anthropocene
An afternoon of talks, videos, ceremonies, food, poetry, science, animal love-making and serious discussion about thinking „the zoo in the anthropocene“.
On the 26th of November 2017, we invited a group of researchers, artist, students, sjamans, scholars and designers to Sexyland in the north of Amsterdam to discuss the role of the zoo in the anthropocene. What followed was an unforgettable day inside a primate habitat: video's, poetry, kava-kava rituals, talks, fermented foods and an interesting discussion at the end.
AUDIENCE: The symposium on the zoo of the future deliberately not focussed on ‘zoo-people’, like sjamans, students and supporters. The objective was to bring together a large flock of young motivated people with a variety of ideas on our relation with nature. Researchers, designers and activists. Though there were a few employees from ARTIS the Amsterdam zoo, the audience was mostly composed of young white concerned, environmentally conscious people. Students and teachers from several design academies, like the Design academy Eindhoven, Landscape architecture department Wageningen, the Academy of Architecture Amsterdam, Exhibition design at the Reinwardt Academy Amsterdam and the Rietveld academy in Amsterdam. There was one dog too. And a stuntman.

DECORUM: Primate Habitat
Humans are monkeys and monkeys are humans. Most presentation forms are killingly boring. Take TED talks... Visiting the the zoo is about the experience. Therefore we decided to design the symposium itself as an experience as well. The set up of the symposium questions the contemporary zoo and its design language. But the design at the same time challenged the visitor to take the position of the animal; to experience their position and to make use of the affordances usually provided to enrich animal enclosures. Allowing our guests to appropriate the space turned them from a passive audience into the subject of the day: the animals exhibited. Both uncomfortable and challenging the public was provided with different kinds of enrichment: a climbing structure, nut-feeders, hay blocks, bananas, buoys and car tires. The cognitive and visual enrichment was provided by the speakers of the day.

SCHEDULE: An afternoon in 4 acts.

Act 1: Simplification & the Complexity of Nature

To start the day we begin with how we relate ourselves to “nature”. We study and dissect nature, we try to understand and organize it by creating a large variety of classifications, species, ecosystems and all kinds of mechanisms to make it more simple than it is. In Act 1 we want to try to see what happens when we embrace nature’s complexity and attempt a holistic view.

1.0 Introduction; Naturgemälde – Alexander von Humboldt
1.1 Medicinal Plants; Aldo Hakman, botanist
1.2 Animated Plant Life - Herbarium; Barbara Visser, visual artist
1.3 Animal Languages; Eva Meijer, author
1.4 The Incredible Shrinking Man; Arne Hendriks, artist

Questions & Discussion
Intermezzo, Virtually Real Animals, VR-installation

Act 2: Nature’s Opportunism & Human Supremacy

Our relationship with the non-human is disturbed. We look at nature as something outside of us and zoo’s are a great example of this phenomena. In Act 2 we try to figure out how our relationships to non-human animals work, on which foundations we base the differentiation between “us” and “them”, and how we can decrease these differences.

2.0 Introduction; They Are The Last – John Berger
2.1 On trying to Play with Pigs; Clemens Driessen, agrarian
2.2 Environmental Enrichment; Govert Flint, designer
2.3 Penguin Pool; Katharina Swoboda, artist
2.4 Cecil Rhodes’ Zoo: The Coloniality of Nature; Nick Shepherd, archeologist
2.5 Rilke’s Panther Revistited; Kári Driscoll, literary scholar

Questions & Discussion

Act 3: The Old Sublime & The New Sublime

Our concept of nature is greatly influenced by the images that we associate with nature. What are nostalgic images of pristine nature worth today? And what kind of new images and aesthetics are coming to take it’s place? And is just about images, or also about stories? And what role do we play in these stories?

3.0 Introduction; James Lovelock’s Gaia – BBC 2
3.1 Rewilding; Jos Rademakers, ecologist /advisor
3.2 Panspermia; Edwin Gardner, futurologist
3.3 The Northsea; Joost Janmaat, artist
3.4 Salt, Cell and Geological Time; Esmee Geerken, researcher / artist
3.5 Progress vs. Sunsets; Melanie Bonajo, artist / activist

Questions & Discussion

de Bakbrommer (Silvia van der Wal), chef

Act 4: And Now... What to do with the Zoo?

4.0 Introduction
4.1 Kava-Kava Ritual - Aldo Hakman

Questions & Discussion
What are the key questions for the future zoo?
What do the designers think?

Defining Case Studies?
– Rewilding Zoo
– Empathic Zoo
– Decolonized Zoo
– Preparing the Ark

Related Logs:

June 9, 2022
Dieren in ons Midden – 3 lezingen in de Bastei
November 7, 2019
Key Note: the Voluntary Zoo
February 25, 2019
Lecture at TU Delft
March 10, 2018
“Keine Welt”, Reading Rilke’s “Panther” in the Anthropocene
October 10, 2000
The Log

Related Images from Library: