Assembling Animal Communication
Curated by Dr. Kevin Chua
March 22 - April 28, 2019
Moving beyond an older approach in philosophy and social science by which language was seen to define what's essential about humans, this exhibition seeks to grapple with animal communication in a properly posthuman way.
Are animal languages, such as bat signals or dolphin calls, more complex than human ones? Is animal communication always intrinsically part of, and co-evolving with, an environment? Might human language, in fact, be a component of a broad spectrum of animal communication? The philosopher Gilles Deleuze famously wrote of birdsongs as what he called "assemblages" – a gathering or conjunction of forces or entities that, though tethered together, persist in their fragmentary multiplicity. What the term allows is a way to cut across the artificial – and very human – divide between animal and environment, Nature and Culture.
To think of animal communication in terms of the assemblage acknowledges that humans and animals have always been in dialogue and exchange. The inquiry thus opens up into culture and history.
The exhibition will coincide with an international, interdisciplinary conference entitled,
Animal/Language organized by Dr. John Beusterien (Spanish), Dr. Belinda Kleinhans (German), Dr. Katy
Schroeder (Animal & Food Sciences), Dr. Lucas Wood (French), Dr. Pamela Zinn (Classics),
and sponsored by the Humanities Center. The Conference call for papers can be found