2013 - 2015 Jan Adriaans: " Isn’t it sad we still want animals to like us?"

Excerpt from Jan's 20 minute presentation for Do The Right Thing ! ~ DAI's 3 day graduation lectures marathon, July 2015.



In his performance-lecture "Stay", Jan Adriaans presented two complementary video works in addition to a text dealing with questions of subjectivity and the illusion of the self as center. Departing from the perspective of the psychology of self, he wonders how or if we can recognize the shared ground of humans and animals (which is rather sensuous). He asks: What do we recognize as an image in our minds? When do we “see” more or less than an image? Adriaans’ work is a way of thinking about the consciousness of other beings, a consciousness which can only exist in imagination and is bound to temporality.

Matthew Fuller formulates sensory perception as a sensual capacity, and offers a way of reconfiguring sensory perceptions. In relation to this enormous sensual capacity, Adriaans wonders: how much do we miss? While Thomas Metzinger offers the concept of intellectual honesty, and the ego as an organ, Adriaans too, has formulated a notion related to the construction of self: “There are moments in which we have less sense of self. Often we call those moments happiness or shock.”

In the first video shown by the artist, a bumblebee tries to get out of a closed window, hitting the glass again and again. Do we recognize ourselves in this image of the bumblebee hitting the window, looking for escape? Adriaans suggest that if we understand the mechanism we might be able to act in the realm of freedom. “We are in a constant process of self-making. As soon as we concern ourselves with what the human being is as well as what the human being ought to become – we concern ourselves with consciousness. In our relationship with the animal we might get a better understanding of the relationships present among humans.” Here, the bumblebee acts as a figure of entrapment, while in the second video, “Stay”, which features a sensual slow pan across the body of a real dog, the animal is a graceful being unto itself but somehow still trapped within the structures of control. The sense of control is heightened by the skillful use of filmic techniques, which reveal the animal only in parts: in panels, panes and screens. A disembodied voice commands the dog to stay; as we begin to move away from a human-centered universe, the quality of this voice begins to sounds resolutely alien.

Maria Hlavajova was attracted to the title of the presentation from the beginning. “Stay” was inviting, she remarked, and offered a multi-layered reading. She observed that a few presentations have dealt with the idea of the post human, and the commitment of the post human. Hlavajova found Adriaans’ text full of complexity and capable of bringing us into a variety of fields and terminology. The discourse of decentering was also strongly present in this work.

Alena Alexandrova began to address this work by starting from two details: the composition of freedom; and the figure of the insect in literature (such as in Dostoyevsky’s novels where there is a fly hitting the window [“A fly flew up suddenly and struck the window pane with a plaintive buzz.” -from Crime and Punishment].) The insect is a complex motif which is related to the non-human (not the anti-human), and this also shows up in Kafka. As for formal elements, Alexandrova questioned whether the grid of the window could be seen as a composed freedom? Furthermore, the tension that came up regarding our perceptual limits/capacity spoke to the question of, “do we know other than that?” Alexandrova questioned what our fantasy about this really is.

Bassam el Baroni offered his reflections by noting that in his work, Adriaans has deviated from the traditional sense of anthropomorphism where animals adopt traits of human beings. “Here there is an anthropomorphism ‘without the morphism’… like finding a shared ground between the human and the animal in the set of constraints that define their selfhood or being.” In many ways we are constantly subjected to the same treatment, but we only recognize it when we see it in other animals. Regarding Adriaans’ reference to Metzinger, el Baroni explained that intellectual honesty means that two realities of consciousness exist – the scientific/material/genetic (ourselves as a swarm of data) and the social self (of politics, systems and other humans). To generate a more honest way of dealing with that, we have to understand our scientific self – and this could be considered a kind of enlightenment.

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