An Introduction to Animals and Visual Culture by R. Malamud

By R. Malamud

How and why do humans "frame" animals so pervasively, and what are the ramifications of this behavior? For animals, being positioned right into a cultural body (a movie, an internet site, a pornographic tableau, an commercial, a cave drawing, a zoo) capability being taken out in their ordinary contexts, leaving them by some means displaced and decontextualized. Human imaginative and prescient of the animal equates to energy over the animal. We envision ourselves as monarchs of all we survey, yet our dismal checklist of polluting and destroying significant swaths of nature exhibits that we're certainly now not masters of the ecosphere. A extra ethically exact stance in our dating to animals may still hence problem the omnipotence of our visible entry to them.

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Visual deception plays a key role in the ethics of overdetermining the discourse of the visual animal. This deception augments the power, and the convenience, of the human framer. What a tangled web we weave (though, of course, we do not actually weave webs – spiders do). The original dog who played Rin-Tin-Tin was found in a bombedout kennel in France near the end of World War I. Film mogul Darryl F. Zanuck saw him performing at a dog show, where the animal reportedly leapt fourteen feet into the air, and decided that he could be a star.

Hippos are thriving in Missouri! Giant Pandas are in Atlanta! Follow Animal Planet’s exploration of the most advanced zoo exhibits in the world. 9 I would respond that there is not actually an African savannah in Canada, and hippos are not really thriving in Missouri. How strange all this is. Animals are reconceptualized to fit into our world – they have cops, doctors, psychics, and so forth, just like us – and their authenticity, their nature, is stripped from them as we remove them from their own world.

My own favorite images of Laika come from Nick Abadzis’s 2007 graphic novel, Laika, in which the dog’s story (alongside the rocket’s story) appears in a way that dignifies her as a character and a living being rather than a symbol. Unlike most other incarnations of Laika in visual culture, Abadzis’s Laika explicitly confronts his audience with the ethical ramifications of her story and the tensions between human ambition and animals’ sacrifices. His drawings of Laika are simple, lively, engaging.

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