Berlin, 3rd January 2016 // BIRTH OF THE KENNEL
- I am not an animal!
The Elephant Man
it´s been a while since my last letter. More than a month actually. A lot has happend, and I am not sure
where to begin, therefore I decided to introduce my laterally - associative thinking on different levels
of my process, which actually suit me most in this moment, to be honest. So today I am offering a pale
tte of some kind of Proustian croquis, strongly intertweened with emotions and theory, wraped in titles
that remind me of pop culture products, as if I was selling ads. ... what should be the price, I ask myself.
HOE HOE HOE
December has been challenging to say the least. I can not help myself but to let the collective psychosis
of holiday atmosphere reach into my emotional landscape, which hurts, even makes me cry every time
I look deep into the cold eyes of the beast. The ugly hybrid of consumerism and religious institutions
that devides people between more and less privileged ones.
... thinking blasphemous thoughts on colonial and imperial processes of appropriation of assets, about
the slave trade, which manifestates particularly in the sex industry, which I am witnessing every time I
open the door of my temporary Büllowstrasse apartment taking Ada and Byron for a walk.
... sharing physical spaces of consumption such as museums, parks, shopping malls and cafeterias, with
out having any actual social interaction, using credit system as a radical means of accumulation by dispo
ssession, which I have been practicing for so many years.
A view from a Hybrid Family performance space @ Büllowstrasse // Berlin // Germany // January 2015
All those spaces encourage action, not inter-action. Isolation.
29th November, I introduced Ada to our hybrid family, driving a car down to Schwarzwald and back for al
most 20 hours because of road blocks and storms; stoping every three hours to install breast pumping equ
ipment, putting a huge pulover over the whole plastic cyborg-like tool on my body, driving further for the
next 20 minutes, feeling horny and depressed. Horny because while pumping, the oxytocin kicks all over
my body big time, and depressed because I am feeeling like an ultimatelly woulnerable underdog. While
experiencing short rushes of pleasure, I decide to make an experiment and economize my time by train
ing perception into rationalizing the whole process, by thinking on the theoretical backgrounds and layers
of K-9_topology. The noise of rational thought on intersections of my empirical and theoretical animal stu
dies connected with philosophy, have been actually increasing my instinct of the autobiographical animal
(as Derrida would say), which manifests as its very document in a form of our blog-diary dialogue. Com
passion and empathy have been welcoming side effects of the whole oxytocin molecular spree on my physi
ology and psychology.
A quite alarming panic attack woke me up just a night before I went to pick up Ada. I haven´t been feel
ing well on my way to Schwarzwald eather. While Byron was quite stoically accompanying his childless
human on our odyissey filled with anxiety attacks … and pleasure … every three hours for twenty minu
tes. All the rest was just fear. Of failure. … To refocus my mind, I started thinking of Derrida´s dwellings
on failure: everything that happens in the end, ….. a failure, a fault, a symptom (and symptom, as you
know, also means "fall": case, unfortunate event, coincidence, what falls due [ichiance], mishap). It is as
if, at that instant, I had said or were going to say the forbidden, something that shouldn't be said. As if I
were to admit what cannot be admitted in a symptom and, as one says, wanted to bite my tongue. Just
that I am not only saying. I am executing. I am embodying!
The root of my culturally based anxiety connects with one of Rosi Braidotti´s thoughts you wrote in your
first letter: ... motherhood has traditionally been considered as an automatic biological process, while
fatherhood is seen as a social and cultural institution that rules over and governs biological relations. I
am transforming into a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction by multidirectionaly exc
hanging the flow of bodies, fluids and values. With a dog! It´s scary while it´s poetic. Zoopoetic. Then,
all the sudden, I find a temporary shelter in words of Carolee Schneemann: My advice to younger artists:
give yourself permission. Indeed a great advice from a good mother! Still, it is hard to remain powerfull,
dignified, … above all, in control.
UNDERDOG: THE BEGINNING
Anxiety aside, taking dog-human relationship seriously, relationality is crucial to this companion species,
and ethics based on an onthology of co-evolution and co-emergence between humans and dogs, in which
none of the partners pre-exist the relating, brings up hybrid ethics.
How did this hybrid ethics appear? What are the reasons for its emergence? And why?
The economy of wolf´s existence is based on its constant energy saving mode. That is why a wolf is such
a good ecosystem regulator. It allways hunts only the weak (ill and old). Never the leader. It would be
too much effort to go after a leader. If we focus on interactions between nature (genotype) and nurture
(phenotype); each wolf inherits genetic propensities (instinct; also called „neuroendocrine programming“)
that lead it into situations in which it learns from its environment (Fentress 1983). Its genotype enables it
to solve ancient problems predictably encountered in the history of the species. Communication during
social interactions help fine tune these responses, enabling individuals to solve new problems and res
pond to the unpredictable nature of their environment. Several species, including wolves (and people)
have evolved flexible problem solving behaviour as an adaptation to the variation in the environment.
(Byrne 1995). One of those adaptations was to start accompanying humans some 32.000 years ago, sin
ce it would be less energy consuming for their survival. After dwelling into a human ecological niche, hu
mans have became a vector for wolves to spread around the globe. Their metabolism adapted fast while
they have been transforming into dogs, so they could digest starch (which wild wolves still are not able
to) and therefore they could remain human companions at the beginning of the agricultural revolution.
Once humans had learned to live with wolf-dogs and adopt the pack algorithm (pastorality dynamics wi
th other species, going beyond the close ties of kinship, learning to cooperate closely, and sharing risks)
many alternative ways to make a living became available. Within this process of coevolution, technology
transfer and diversification began to thrive. Humans became better gatherers, better hunters, more su
ccessful fishermen, gardeners, astronauts … Wolf-dogs became hunting companions, guards, sled pulls,
beasts of burden, baby substitutes, toys, food, human substitutes in experiments, and the first astrona
uts to circle our planet. As one of the consequences of dwelling in the same biological niche, several ge
nes in dogs and humans have been evolving in parallel as adaptation to similar environments. The gene
that has consequently – as a process of taming – mutated in humans, which I am particularly interested
into, is the one that codes for the serotonin transporter SLC6A4. Polymorphisms on this gene are one of
the key molecular mechanisms for humans to be able to tolerate the presence of others! It has been sci
entifically proven that wolves / dogs have been the key selection pressure for that gene in human DNA to
mutate. However - in case of the absence of a human, dogs still posses the social regulation pattern to
form back into a pack. With other dogs. Without a human. So I have been wondering (along with many
evolutionary scientists): who has been (more) taming and who has been (more) tamed during this parallel
Human SLC6A4 gene carries the inscription for metabolic pathway regulation. It mutated as a consequence of a selection
pressure of co-habiting with wolves and later dogs.
DOG LISTENER, NOT WHISPERER
Many radical animal rights ideas make me think on Nietzche´s meditations behind the Three Metamorpho
ses on domestication which sublimates rather than supersedes human brutality. The result is a culture of
feigned gentleness whose actual ruthlessness is matched only by the degree of its self-deception. … In su
ch a society, pity (and its public manifestations) is often the euphoric or ecstatic sublimation of cruelty.
Based on my own experience I can only speak for some dogs, but I´m pretty sure we should talk through
a Morse also with a horse, since domesticated animals, as well as their humans are bilingual. Together we
inter-communicate by using a language which is not human, nor is animal. It´s a hybrid one. A dog commu
nicates very directly if she / he doesn´t agree with one. If she / he is in agony, fear, anxiety, willing or not
willing to collaborate in any moment. Therefore I do ask Ada whether she agrees with me on our collabora
After pumping colostrum during the whole December, I finally got some drops of milk. The first one just a
day before Christmas. What an amusing irony!!! After waiting patiently, sitting on the floor with Ada and
Byron, she finally approached me, smelled the milk and gently licked those few drops as they ran down
my breast. I got completely overwhelmed by this puppy´s amount of emotional inteligence at only couple
of moths age. And so it goes. Our relationship is a hybrid one, therefore nor am I her mother and she is my
baby, nor am I a canine bitch, breatsfeeding my puppy. This is when alinguistic unmeaning happens, so to
say in Agamben terms, an intimacy more internal than any closedness.
Byron & Ada / December 2015
It is very hard though. I (still) don´t get drops of milk every time I execute pumping, yet more and more.
Sometimes I don´t get it for few days in a row. Beside that, I daily dwell into a complex process of empa
thy, evolving intuition based on empirical and theoretical experience to ensure that the needs of my dogs
are respected (they are My dogs, as I am Their human), and that the understanding of them develops from
listening to them, from observing their bodies and behaviour. But nevertheless, in Harraway terms it is lo
ve that functions as an ethical bind between the companion species – love here names the ethical co-emer
gence and cohabitation between specific, historically situated dogs and humans. Love does not therefore
mean a mere intensification of affect, or a more proprietarial form of possesion (as in the phrase, „I Love
Animals“) but rather a preparedness to examine the interrelations between my dogs and myself, between
humans and other species. I enter our relationship in order to listen to Ada and Byron, not whisper to them.
As Charles Darwin said allready in his 1838 M Notebook: He who understands baboon would do more towards
metaphysics than Locke.
At some levels, my durational performance, which begun yet in mid October 2015 in an apartment gallery
is similar to the one of Joseph Beuys and a Coyote with whom the artist shared a gallery space. Neither
human nor the animal was at home in this space but using the various props at hand and sharing space
between the human and non-human agent, was itself the artwork.
From the cultural perspective, my temporary home - performance space exsists between inclusion and ex
clusion, for it has a status of Agamben´s exception (like a camp). And therefore every reproduction stra
tegy, within this camp, is at the same time a legitimation strategy aimed at consecrating both an exclusive
appropriation and its reproduction. (Pierre Bourdieu / The forms of capital.)
However, in order to think outside the limits of thought - limits set by experts – I must break rules, trans
gress boundaries. Stability and order as I / we percept and know it only lead us back to exclusively human.
Hybrid Family performance space, detail
Ada in Hybrid Family performance space
THE GREATEST LOVE OF ALL
Byron has been helping me a great deal with raising up Ada. One of his most overwhelming actions is;
whenever Ada does something she should not, and I say: „Ada fuj!“ (kinda synonymus for a „bad dog“,
though it has a bit different meaning in Slovenian), he arrives immediately, no matter where he´s been
or what he´s been doing in that moment, and growls at her until she stops and refocuses onto something
else. He has been playing with her a lot as well. They play the prey game with each other. As in the wolf
pack where older sisters and brothers teach puppies complex methods of hunting. Sometimes I join them.
When Byron needs his space and / or time for himself, and especially when he eats, he growls at Ada quite
hard and with a huge effect in case she is bugging him. So we are parenting - domestifying Ada together.
Byron has such a great personality! Very neurotic and therefore sometimes quite a heavy maintenance,
but nevertheless, Byron is a dog with a huge heart and I love him beyond words. It seems a new family
member brought out his shepherdness on a whole new level! The three of us hug and kiss a lot, lie in bed,
crowl on the floor and jump on and of the furniture, but also scream and growl within our process of gett
ing to know each other, taming, (re)setting boundaries now that Ada´s joined the family. We are a pack
in which I am the alpha, then it is Byron, then Ada. This is our pyramid since I am the general food and
shelter provider within the human, cultural, legislative realm. However Byron and Ada are teaching me
how to set boundaries as straight as possible in order to protect myself and themselves, a much valuable
life experience I also appropriate in my relationships with people. A capability my human family failed to
ANOTHER DAY IN LIFE OF A CHILDLESS MOTHER
Dwelling on the physiological levels of my process through the discourse of molecular performance and
hormonal biopolitics within a collaboration process with Ada, by constantly repeating the act of pumping
breasts, and hence training my pituitary glance in very Foucaultian terms, I am doing the very same train
ing procedure with my body as the one in contemporary dog training methodology. I am transforming in
to a performer, by being very much inspired by thoughts of an interesting performance artist Kroot Jurak,
who has been executing performances for pets. She developed a theory by making a comparison of a per
formance artist with a pet: Based on the lecture “Artists’ Responsibility” — “Autodomestication” focuses
specifically on (self)education and pet training: A new kind of training NOW increasingly popular among
many pet owners: clicker training. This method differs from traditional learning methods in the most funda
mental way, namely instead of getting the pet obey certain rules, the owner makes their pet believe they
are in fact training their owner, to click. This new method has proven to forster new creativity and better
communication with pets. Now in power they act more responsible and selfassured but also becoming be
tter communicable and selforganized in order to attain their goals. Punishment and fear have been repla
ced with creativity, proactivenss and freedom to think…
So I have been executing a clicker training with my amygdala. Or is my amygdala training me, by letting
me know it is about time to start experiencing these somatic sensations? Clearly the whole process in this
project has to do a lot with my so called molecular, biological clock. By soon turning 38, I am facing few
more years towards having a chance to have a biological baby. Allthough I want to have one, I still do
not feel prepared to have my own baby, but most of all – I do not have the conditions to choose. In order
to survive, I do not have the biggest capital within the zeitgeist: time! Not even close. Nevertheless, I feel
the need to experience breastfeeding, since I can´t have it all. I feel the need to inoculate my egg cell
with a dog sperm. Because I so much want to have it all! What a blasfemic neoliberalistic wish. Allthough
painful, writing this is at the same time very much liberating. To finally express the ultimate emotional
level of my many intentions within K-9_topology, while continuing to live my life full of paradoxes.
At the same time, meditating on our enriching dialogue, I have been wondering Jens, what is your persp
ective towards the institution of (hybrid) family, parenting, children? How do you transfer into the molecu
larity of my becoming? I guess the duration of my humanless solitude combined with canine non verbal
communication are starting to kick in and hence thick walls which have been carrying the last sense of a
distance are finally falling down. I am in full transfer. I am becoming … which makes me transcend into the
realm of beautiful T. S. Eliot Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock´s ending:
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.
A big hug;