Animals Being Animals
- Years: 2014, 2017, 2019
- With: Duncan Robson, various Youtube users
In Animals Being Animals, we present compilations of clips from two distinct genres of video, “Animals Being Friends” and “Animals Being Enemies”. Some variations on these have become popular enough online to achieve a kind of official “meme” status, such as “Unlikely Animal Friends” or “Animals Being Jerks”. Each genre has its own conventions and garners its own self-selected audience that identifies with the genre and generates a predictable string of commentary to each online video.
The installation consists of a simple juxtaposition of these genres. By putting looping streams of both side by side on two monitors, we subsume them in a larger genre we call Animals Being Animals, which generates some interesting visual and narrative linkages between the two video sources and points out the fundamental variability of (human) animal behavior. It quickly becomes apparent that although the Animal “Friends” and “Enemies” genres seem to be in opposition to one another, they actually share many formal qualities and begin to blur into a single category. Most of the videos were filmed by amateur photographers using digital cameras on mobile phones. In this situation, the act of recording is itself experienced through a screen – that is, while watching the footage being recorded.
The animals who are really being animals in this piece may be the persons who shot the videos, who watched in horror or delight, but always through a screen, and always with the simultaneous expectation of digital reproduction and dissemination. And this includes we ourselves, who watch what they were watching, who watch them watch, and who watch ourselves watching, through a screen that is now always present, on our minds if not in our hands. Whether we adopt an attitude of friendship or enmity to what we see on the screen, and to the screen itself, in watching the relationships of other animals play out, we all – all of us, after all, also animals – are doing something very instinctual.
Animals Being Animals was first displayed at SOMArts in San Francisco, July 2014. A second version developed in collaboration with video artist Duncan Robson was shown at Headlands Center for the Arts in 2017. A text adaptation titled “Commentary” was published in 2019.