Artists Laura Gustafsson and Terike Haapoja: “Human and animal are contractual categories”
Contemporary art

Text: Veera Heinonen Photo: Terike Haapoja

This summer, artwork Museum of Nonhumanity by Finnish Author Laura Gustafsson, and visual artist Terike Haapoja is exhibited as part of the summer exhibition Animals & Us at Turner Contemporary in Margate. In 2016, their work was awarded a national media art prize in Finland. We asked Gustafsson and Haapoja about their work.

What is Museum of Nonhumanity all about?

Laura: “Our work explores the division between animals and humans, and how these categories have been defined in different times. The work has different parts. For example, in a part called Distance, we explore how by building distance we can make other creatures more inhuman. The part Anima looks into how in the history of Western philosophy and Christianity the immortal soul has been seen as something only humans can have. We compressed the original work for the Animals & Us exhibition.”

How do you see the inequality between animals and humans?

Laura: “Human and animal are contractual categories. They are not very logical, or biological.”

Terike: “Most people are interested in the emancipation of the human race, but when it comes to animal rights, they tend to accept the power of the stronger over the weaker, for example in case of the meat industry. It’s just as bad as  justifying colonialism by saying that this is the way things have always been done.”

What has been the best part of this project?

Terike: “It seems The Museum of Nonhumanity resonates with some general ongoing societal debates. It feels like the work has been recognized. We have been able to study society widely by exploring these themes. This has kind of been an intensive study group of two.”

What was the most challenging aspect of the project?

Laura: “It was challenging to narrow down the topic, because we tend to deal with such wide themes.”

How do you wish the audience will find your work?

Laura: “We hope, that the work will speak for itself, and that people will have the time and patience to take it in. We hope that visitors can delve into the themes, and recognize how the phenomena still exist. These issues are not history, but exist in language, our everyday experiences, and legislation.”

Animals & Us. Address: Turner Contemporary, Rendezvous, Margate, Kent CT9 1HG. Free admission.


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