Captured sight: exploration of the zoo

2017-03-02T03:24:56Z (GMT) by Kwok, Ka-Yin
The aims of this research project address the question: Is there any harm in looking? As the author and viewer, I am interested in what happens to the subject as other through the production of imagery. With a background in documentary and television post-production my working life involves the looking at imagery, my lens-based research practice, however, explores the question of how to look at imagery, both ethically and ontologically. The locus of this research project is delimited by a close consideration of the zoo as enclosure. The zoo is a human-designed looking institution where the animal is confined and put on view. Through examining the zoo as an institution of looking I have produced an analysis of the anthropocentric hegemony in authoring the story of the animal. This research into the human and non-human animal relationship has provided me with a microcosm of my interest in the dynamics of the author/viewer and the subject/other in film and video practice. The preliminary frame of the research draws on Susan Sontag’s Regarding the Pain of Others (2004) in order to address to the ethics of representation and provide an understanding of how a power dynamic forms in the act of looking. As my research developed the zoo’s barriers began to provide pertinent metaphors for discussing the ambivalence of the human’s ontology in relation to the non-human animal. In On Touching − The Inhuman That Therefore I am (2012) Karen Barad relates the act of touching to quantum field theory. She explores the interstitial space between the self and the other in her analysis of the self-touching electrons. Barad’s troubling in the interstitial space of human ontology enables a questioning of the barrier that delimits the human/animal binary. I then applied these questions through a consideration of Jacques Derrida’s The Animal That Therefore I am (2008) in which Derrida deconstructs the ontological limits that define the human and the non-human animal. The culmination of my research is the video installation Can you hear me? This work is a collection of the looking between human and animal subjects framed by my looking at the humans looking at animals.