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Surface Encounters

Thinking with Animals and Art

2011
Author:

Ron Broglio

Surface Encounters

Developing a phenomenology of the animal other through contemporary art

Ron Broglio bypasses the perspectives of biology or natural history to explore how one can construct an animal phenomenology, to think and feel as an animal other—or any other. Broglio considers contemporary artists who take seriously the world of the animal on its own terms, developing languages of interspecies expression that challenge philosophy and fashion new concepts for animal studies.

Surface Encounters is an insightful consideration of the problematics of animal phenomenology.

Kari Weil, Wesleyan University

What is it like to be an animal? Ron Broglio wants to know from the inside, from underneath the fur and feathers. In examining this question, he bypasses the perspectives of biology or natural history to explore how one can construct an animal phenomenology, to think and feel as an animal other—or any other.

Until now phenomenology has grappled with how humans are embedded in their world. According to philosophical tradition, animals do not practice the self-reflexive thought that provides humans with depth of being. Without human interiority, philosophers have believed, animals live on the surface of things. But, Broglio argues, the surface can be a site of productive engagement with the world of animals, and as such he turns to humans who work with surfaces: contemporary artists.

Taking on the negative claim of animals living only on the surface and turning the premise into a positive set of possibilities for human–animal engagement, Broglio considers artists—including Damien Hirst, Carolee Schneemann, Olly and Suzi, and Marcus Coates—who take seriously the world of the animal on its own terms. In doing so, these artists develop languages of interspecies expression that both challenge philosophy and fashion new concepts for animal studies.

Awards

2013 Transdisciplinary Humanities Book Award from the Institute for Humanities Research

Surface Encounters

Ron Broglio is assistant professor of English and senior scholar of the Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University.

Surface Encounters

Surface Encounters is an insightful consideration of the problematics of animal phenomenology.

Kari Weil, Wesleyan University

Learned and intellectually courageous, Surface Encounters brims with counter-intuitive arguments about what it means to tarry thoughtfully with non-human life. This is nothing less than a scholarly manifesto: compact, lively, and pressing, as much a rousing call for future imaginings as it is a sober analysis in its own right.

David Clark, McMaster University

Passionately researched, exhaustively thorough.

Our Hen House

[Surface Encounters] is an inventive and original book that should find its way onto the bookshelves of not only those interested in animal studies and contemporary visual arts, but in the study of politics and culture more generally.

Maria Whiteman, Anthrozoös

Surface Encounters

Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: Staying on the Surface

1. Meat Matters: Distance in Damien Hirst
2. Body of Thought: Immanence and Carolee Schneemann
3. Making Space for Animal Dwelling: Worlding with Snæbjörnsdóttir/Wilson
4. Contact Zones and Living Flesh: Touch after Olly and Suzi
5. A Minor Art: Becoming-Animal of Marcus Coates
Coda: Human, Animal, and Matthew Barney

Notes
Index

Surface Encounters

UMP blog - Writing amid the difficulty of reality

I sat down to write this blog entry but the day got away from me. The morning began with me discussing the death of a beached whale with an artist working on the grammars of touch around this displaced, alien, corporeal mass of a body. Later in the day I find out my copy editor’s father is having heart surgery. In the evening, I find out a colleague is in the hospital. The day is unique only in its being typical—which is to say, we are situated in a world of vulnerability. Vulnerability is in the very comportment of our worlding.

Read the full article.