The performance was devised by Paula and performed and produced by a place of their own contemplates our relationship with non-human animals in a bid to open up thinking of lives beyond and without the human. It is part of a year-long project, which stems from thinking about our relations to each other as a family of human animals, as well as to our relations to non-human animals. In the food we choose to eat, in the stories we tell, in the songs we sing….the myriad of ways small children encounter and then learn about what it means to be humans by defining what it means to be other – in this instance the non-human animal. Working through this thinking and practice with an ongoing concern with the maternal, with the reproduction of human-life and human-subjectivity has been provocative at times as the move from the human nudged into thinking of ahumanity and the cessation of human reproduction.
The origins of the thinking behind this project and performance – and to the connection between thinking and practice on the feminine-maternal and thinking of relations with non-human animals to that which underpins dominant thinking, cultural practices and pedagogy can be of found in Rosi Braidotti;s research. Braidotti reminds us that western culture is based on the universal white heterosexual male that is rooted in perceived and promulgated notions of human exceptionalism. Braidotti takes us back to the “He”: the classical ideal of “Man” —a universal model of the human represented as the recurring motif of Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. The universalization of this hegemonic white, male subject excludes ‘others', such as animals, slaves,women, children, as less than human because, ‘difference spells inferiority’(Braidotti 2013, p. 15). This anthropocentric thinking continues to dominate, as the world is for Man and man alone. This conceit is dangerous and is produced in several ways, not the least of which is via the representational presumption that the world reflects our knowledge of it, or rather, that the world conforms to an anthropocentric image in which life itself is continually captured as an object of meaning established in advance of its difference.
This representational presumption of 'Man' is seen in the history of art and reinforced by the academy as dominant, oppressive and imperial relations with other humans and non-humans are continually reproduced. This is where feminist and anti-speciesm thinking and art practice connect and where the inspiration for this performance can be found; as perhaps in our creation of new images of the mother, children and animals is part of a wider movement away from anthropocentric images of life to create new conditions and images of thinking to think beyond the huMan. As surely this is part of art's function as artists, like animals, are concerned with creating worlds-to-become. And in this sense then, how we 'do' family, and how we 'do' art education might be thought of not in terms of the reification of the (male) huMan experience, but in how we (whether as artists, parents, non-parents – or as becoming-animals) might be implicated in the material conditions of the planet and the planet to come.