I pretty much love anything Isabella Rossellini does. She is perhaps best known as a model, and for her role in Blue Velvet, but she has recently taken to some peformance art where she acts out the more intimite lives of animals. I stumbled upon a book/video series called Green Porno a couple of years ago at a local artsy bookstore, then called Domy Books, now called Farwell Books. Isabella Rossellini is dressed up in these amazing theatrical animal costumes, and she acts out the somewhat bizarre courtship and mating habits of different animals in a scientific but humorous way. Here's one of my favorites.
She also teamed up with Burt's Bees and did some videos about just how awesome bees really are. There are three videos in total (although she also does a different and interesting bee video in her Green Porno series.) All of them are highly educational, and also touch on ways that everyone can do to help the bees.
And one more.
Recently, I was listening to an interview where she was talking about how altruism is not just a human trait, but one that can be found in lots of animals, mostly with mothers and their young. This had lead Isabella to her next and latest series, Mamas. There's only a couple of videos so far, one a spider who is consumbed by her babies, and another where she is a hampster that consumes her babies.
I won't show any more videos, leaving you and youtube to do the rest, but every last one is amazing and fun to watch. The lives of animals are fascinating, and the way Isabella Rossellini playfully presents them is a joy to watch. I hope that you enjoy them as much as I do.
A lot of my art involves animals. Although I do love animals, this is not the only reason why I paint them, but rather because I feel that we are missing valuable lessons that other species have to teach.
One of the first questions I had as a child was just what it was that made animals different from humans. I had a cat named Byron who would follow me everywhere. Like many owners and their pets, he and I came to understand each other without words.
One of the more frustrating things about human relationships is that we limit our communication to just words a lot of the time. And the problem with words is that there will forever be the gap between sound and meaning. Not to dismiss language, it is elusive, fluid, and at the same point precise in action. Humans think in language, while animals, do not. This has for a long time, gave humans license to believe that animals must therefore not think, as we can no longer imagine wordless thoughts.
The more we study animals, however the more we come to see that there might be very little separation between us and them. The things that we hold as gifts from the gods, we are starting to see in the animal kingdom. For example, octopi can make and use tools, open jars and learn through observation. Rats feel empathy, elephants console, squirrels remember, and many species different mourn.
Most people have seen this video, or at least know of Koko the gorilla, but it's a good one nonetheless.
I have heard before that children dreams feature mostly animals. If you look at popular children's books and movies, it often seems like the more animals the better. Even in narratives staring humans, the protagonist best friend is often an animal, and the favorite of younger audiences. Stories that star animals are even better, and they often allow for far more complex story lines to be comprehendible to younger viewers. It allows for lions to act out Hamlet, deers to experience profound grief, dogs to become martyrs, fall in love and illustrate class struggles. Narratives that if given to a human character would make it not relatable, scary, or boring.
Stuffed animals are loved by both boys and girls. Some police and firemen have started carrying teddy bears around because of their proven benefit to help children calm down after traumatic events. I believe that animals' ability to wordlessly understand can be a great relief to children when they are still lacking in the ability to communicate.
But I believe that our relationship is quickly changing with animals, and that is what I suppose is what I am most currently interested in pursuing. Pets are becoming more and more a part of the family, while farm animals are becoming just a commodity and wildlife is becoming either a myth or a sport, depending on how endangered. It is distancing our world from theirs, because of this, we are starting to see animals loose their hold on the human psyche. We are starting to see more and more anthropomorphized inanimate objects replace animals in children's films, such as Toys, WALL-E, Cars, and most recently, Planes. I wonder what effect this will have in the future, could we learn to love machines and robots as much as we do cats and dogs?
Looking at pictures of various robot dogs, I don't think so. At least, not as they are currently. Although I won't mention it too much here, (I'm going to save it for a future post) it is worth bringing to mind Harlow and his monkeys, and how being able to touch, and be touched is an important part of bonding for all different kinds of species.
Humans don't bond with only humans, and animals have been seen in several different interspecies friendships. I think that it is time that human stop seeing the world as a polarity of humans and animals, man and critter, person and nonperson and start seeing it as a world full of animals, where we are just one species among many.
Kelsey Jenkinson is a 27 year old artist in currently living and working in Austin, Texas.