Like a Bird: Art, Affect and Interspecies Encounters
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This thesis investigates the ways in which art’s radical, imaginative and affective potential may be used to envisage alternative models of living with and caring for birds through the works of contemporary artists Greta Alfaro, Kader Attia and Marcus Coates. Birds are everywhere in our cities but we cannot hear them because they have become white noise to our ears. The reduction of our daily experiencing of and with nature is a first symptom of the ongoing facture between humans and their environment, which reveals the loss of affects, sensibility, curiosity and empathy towards living matter. By identifying the ecological crisis as a crisis in our relations to both human and non- human beings, we can pinpoint affects – a non-cognitive form of perceiving and communicating – as a hinge between bodies and their surroundings that enables us to feel and experience the world. Art produces the framework and content for the transmission of affective resonances with viewers and it is through art’s emotional, sensible, challenging and subversive qualities that works can steer us towards finding new forms of interspecies social interplay, where our inextricable ties with living matter are emphasized through forms of vulnerability, responsibility and care. Art thus appears essential in the shift towards a more ecological life in that they can generate creative proposals for the elaboration of alternative social and political hybrid spaces between human and bird cultures. The artists presented in this thesis explore notions of mimicry, becoming-animal, third space and common-ground in order to formulate new, enriched affective ties with birds and to offer new ways of living together.