Waiting Room
Immersive sound installation and video archive
Sound design by Jaakko Autio
Curated by Alice Smits
Zone2Source gallery, het Glazen Huis, Amstelpark, Amsterdam

The glass pavilion in Amstelpark is located in a human-made park, a representation of nature that proposes a peaceful and natural relationship between humans and nonhumans. Thus, one function of the park is to help make invisible other, less peaceful forms of human-nonhuman interaction. The installation Waiting Room plays with the double exposure of the park and the slaughterhouse, and the simultaneous invisibility and presence of the factory farm complex. From a distance, the pavilion seems completely empty – only the sign Waiting Room signals for viewers to come in. Inside the pavilion the viewer enters a space that is visually dominated by the landscape of the park, while an immersive soundscape creates an acoustic environment of the waiting area where animals are enclosed before being brought to slaughter. The recorded soundscape is played back from 20 speakers in 1:1 scale so that it represents the authentic acoustic experience of the original space. The audio traces of lives that have already passed through their inevitable death create a space of haunting that points to the mortality of all beings.

The sound installation includes an archival element – of a working title terror archive – that presents law as a medium through which beings become visible or invisible to society. The work maps out legislation that protects the industry from being visible to the general public through laws that regulate the use of animals, and laws that articulate personhood as opposed to things. The archive then expands to notions of terrorism and how the status quo criminalises attempts to question the violence its power is founded upon.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a symposium discussing how critique of institutions of State-sanctioned violence is suppressed through law and policy, and how to resist the system.

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Technology defines our relationship with nature in multiple ways. Our knowledge of the nonhuman world is limited to scientific devices that translate natural processes that are otherwise inaccessible to human senses. Information technologies frame how we process and distribute this knowledge. Emerging fields of art and theory – such as new materialism, posthumanism and critical animal studies – investigate how we communicate, interact and share experiences with the nonhuman world.

The field of technology that has the greatest defining impact on our relationship with nonhuman species is, perhaps, industrial animal production. Complex notions of hybridity or interspecies communication are rendered trivial within the context of a factory farm. The industry operates on a core logic dividing life into the active life of human agents and the passive, bare life of nonhuman animals. This industrial relegation of worldly beings to mere raw material for production is not only subjecting billions of lives to suffering and death, but also wreaking global havoc in the form of accelerated carbon emissions, harmful land use, and pollution resulting in environmental and social crises, which most severely affects those human communities that are already struggling.

The existence of the factory farm complex relies on a strict divide between humans and animals. To be deemed an animal means to be a “thing”. The protection or destruction of an animal is decided arbitrarily by its utilitarian value to the human. To question the basis of this binary is to question the whole paradigm on which our current way of life is built. Thus, what is characteristic of this field of industry is a commitment to secrecy and hiding, and the lobbying of legislators for privacy laws that push the whole industry behind a protective veil of opaqueness. Because the use of “animals” as free labor and raw material is paradigmatic to contemporary capitalism, all those questioning this line of industry are often labelled as domestic terrorists. As a result, the factory farm is almost completely invisible to society, while at the same time its presence saturates every aspect of our world.