Museum of Nonhumanity
11-channel video installation, book, programming (2016-)
Project website: www.museumofnonhumanity.org
Museum of Nonhumanity is a 11-channel, 70 minute video installation that presents the history of the distinction between ‘the human’ and ‘the animal’, and the way that this imaginary boundary has been used to oppress both human and nonhuman beings. Throughout history, declaring a group to be nonhuman or subhuman has been an effective tool for justifying slavery, oppression and genocide. Conversely, differentiating humans from other species has paved the way for the abuse of natural resources and other animals.
Museum of Nonhumanity approaches animalization as a nexus that connects xenophobia, sexism, racism, transphobia, and the exploitation of nature and other animals. The touring museum hosts lecture programs in which local civil rights and animal rights organizations, academics, artists, and activists will propose paths to a more inclusive society through an intersectional approach. The Museum also hosts a book shop and a vegan café.
As an temporary, utopian institution Museum of Nonhumanity stands as a monument to the call to make animalization history.
See project website for full exhibition documentation, video, credits and touring updates.
The publication Museum of Nonhumanity includes full documentation and contextualising essays and is available from the artists.
Museum of Nonhumanity 2016 Team
Gustafsson&Haapoja, concept, research, exhibition design
Terhi Tuomi, producer
Alma Snellman, research assistant
Pia Sievinen, publicist
Tsto, graphic design
Selina Väliheikki and Orlan H. Ohtonen, outreach
Pietu Pietiäinen, technical manager
Perttu Sinervo, exhibition constructions
Perttu Sinervo and Arttu Kurttila, constructions
Tomi Flyckt, editing
Kati Roover and John Dunn, assisting in production and research, gallery supervising
Jaana Eskola, producer, HIAP
Hanni Brotherus and Anu Suosalo, Café Empathy
Mike Garner and Silja Kudel, translations and proofreading
Seminar organisers and speakers
Giovanna Esposito Yussif, Minna Henriksson, Elisa Aaltola, Sami Keto, Tracey Warr, Jenni Nurmenniemi, Dionizas Bajarunas, Mirko Nikolic, Kira O’Reilly, Pia Puu Oksanen, Juha Kilpiä, Maru Hietala, Aro Mielonen, Suvi West, David Muoz, Pauliina Feodoroff, Maryan Abdulkarim, Salla Tuomivaara, Mai Kivelä, Jeff Mannes, Visa Kurki, Liisa Kaski, James Nikander.
[From the publication Museum of Nonhumanity]
The notion of human exceptionalism is deeply rooted in the traditional values of western culture. The Aristotelian heritage, Christianity, scientific rationalism and the Enlightenment have all made their own contribution to the idea of human rights and of the inherent value of human life. The same philosophical traditions have simultaneously promoted anthropocentrism and thus worsened the ever-deepening divide separating humans from nature and other animals.
The divide between human and nonhuman has, however, never been clear. Aristotle set up the free Greek man as the representative of the human in his most evolved form. Other genders and nationalities, as well as enslaved humans, were merely imperfect versions of the free Greek man, and therefore, in their very essence, born to lead a less dignified life. The soldiers of Christian nations forced not only their culture but also death on those who they defined as being of lesser value than themselves or even as subhuman. The European colonial period brought centuries-long tragedy to numerous peoples, who were murdered, ended up in institutionalized slavery, or were driven from their homelands. The monstrous genocides of the 20th cen- tury seem to have taken place far from the heritage of humanism, but they are, nevertheless, manifestations of an ideology that asserts the superiority of one group over another.
A common factor in genocides is a doctrine that other people are not humans, but rats, cockroaches, brutes, pests or bacteria, threatening the purity of the human. Rhetoric paves the way for action: the murder-
ing can begin once the words have done their job. The dualistic world order with the human/animal dichotomy at its core has not just been disastrous to fellow human beings who have been pushed onto the other side of the line. Intensive animal agriculture grew to unforeseen dimensions during the course of the 20th century. Using and abusing other animals is at the very foundation of modern cultures. The presence of these others has simultaneously been rendered invisible.
The belief that nature is of no more than instrumental value and that it exists merely to be exploited – or “cultivated” – by the human species is at the core of the environmental crisis of today: a crisis that comes ever closer to those who used to profit from this exploitative relationship.
Museum of Nonhumanity calls for the deconstruction of the categories of animality and humanity in order to enter a new, more inclusive era.