Animal Death

This Symposium held on the 12th and 13th June 2012 at the University of Sydney was nice and intimate with some brilliant presentations by some key researchers and activists in the field of animal/human studies. Of particular interest to me was Deborah Bird Rose author of ‘Wild Dog Dreaming: Love and Extinction’ and Professor of Social inclusion in the Centre for Research on Social Inclusion. She spoke of living in the shadow of animal death like “dogs crying behind the corpse house”. Her poetic approach was very evocative and her broad ranging interests, from active awareness of current crises between animals and humans, such as the flying fox colony in Sydney and Layson Albatross couples in Hawaii, to the religious existential philosophy of Lev Shestov, and the powerful art of Janet Laurence particularly ‘After Eden’. It was wonderful to listen to Janet and Barbara in conversation about the installation and her successful use of taxidermy borrowed from the Australian Museum and slowed film footage with the sound of animal breathing. The affect was enhanced by modified lights and sheer screens demonstrating the all encompassing field of installation and its ability to impress atmosphere upon the spectator. I also met sound recorder Jane Ulman who interviewed me for ABC radio ‘among animals’. I was thankful to also make contact with fellow ANU PhD researcher Rhiannon Galla from the School of Sociology. Her presentation resonated with me due to its focus on Deleuze and Bataille, a combination I have also found extremely fruitful. Rhiannon focused on ethics and says in her abstract, “This paper seeks to understand the significance of animal death from the point of view of the forces that possess us in the encounter with death. It considers how the quite literal decomposition of relations of force might expose us, not to a task that presses upon us, but to singular possibilities for new modes of life.” I anticipated showing her my shrouds.

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