The discontent in civilization


A zoo is a place where as many species and varieties of animal as possible are collected in order that they can be seen, observed, studied. In principle, each cage is a frame round the animal inside it.
Visitors visit the zoo to look at animals. They proceed from cage to cage, not unlike visitors in an art gallery who stop in front of one painting and then move on to the next.
The decor, accepting these elements as tokens, sometimes reproduces them to create pure illusion – as in the case of painted prairies or rock pools at the back of the boxes. Sometimes it merely adds further tokens to suggest something of the animal's original landscape. These added tokens serve two distinct purposes: for the spectator they are like theatre props: for the animals they constitute the bare minimum of an environment in which they can physically exist.
You are looking at something that has been rendered absolutely marginal. In zoos, animals constitute the living monument to their own disappearance. Yet nowhere in a zoo can a stranger encounter the look of an animal.
Yet in the zoo the view is always wrong. Like an image out of focus.



John Berger


The discontent in civilization is inspired by Freud's „The Ueasiness in Culture“. The zoo is an isle of nature in cities, where we presume outdoor leisure and contact with authentic nature, where exotic and endangered species live in an reservation, but where an encounter between us and our relative creatures is not really possible. Our idea that we have of nature has to be disappointed by the „real“ and at the same totally unreal mise-en-scène of this nature in a zoo, isolated and out of context. Animals of very different foreign landscapes are physically close to each other but cannot even meet in their function to be exhibited to the voyeuristic gaze and to illustrate the real existency of Dinsey's pattern. Their cages and  terrariums want to suggest us an natural habitat, but actually they seem exotic ghettos.

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