What if we have learned to perceive animals as “individuals” only through zoos? All other relations with animals are collaborations, where we have personalised knowledge about a particular animals history and see it as a member of its group or resource oriented relations, where we approach animals as tools or food. The primary motive of the zoo is to present animals as individuals, lonely and out of context creatures (as we are). The isolation of animals is a performance we come to witness at the zoos. Through their loneliness and isolation we can find ease in our struggles.
The zoo is a vitally important public institution for building human-animal relations… Particularly for people who moved into cities in the beginning of the 20th century. When we were living in the forest, every animal we didn’t see posed a threat. The woods we filled with traces and smells of invisible enemies. The zoo presents the most threatening animals we can imagine in a human controlled habitat. The zoo makes animals visible. Only after we see the wolf in a controlled environment, we can begin to see it as something else then a hostile adversary fighting for the same resources we are. The individuals that suffer in the zoos protect their species.
Zoos provide us an opportunity to approach animals rationally. They are remnants of the enlightenment era, public sites which offer access to animal-relation-contemplation for all citizens. The zoo is not showing animals, this would be impossible because animals become something else when they are moved out of their habitat (context). The zoo is a non-site, which refers to actual habitats and portrays individual animals as representatives of their species. The zoo produces non-animals and it presents a collections of possible human-animal relations (This idea was addressed by Katrin Caspar during our Grey Cube Gallery interviews)! The generations of animals which have been born to the zoos consider it to be their natural habitat. They are more accustomed to representations of “habitats associated to their species” than wild nature.