Keynote speakers

Elisa Aaltola

Human Languages and Nonhuman Agency

Definitions of animal agency, including the inner states of other animals, are usually grounded on human languages, and particularly propositional representations. The inevitable question that emerges is whether such languages can ever grasp let alone reliably communicate what it is like to be a nonhuman creature, which again places potential limitations for our understanding of animal agency. The talk explores this difficulty by making a distinction between two understandings of “language” – representational language on the one hand, and Wittgensteinian “language as doing” on the other. Resting partly on the philosophy of Henri Bergson, it will be argued that representational language – even if often necessary – tends to detach us from comprehending the subjectivity of others, and that other, more subtle, intricate forms of language, founded on “doing” and “acting” rather than “naming”, may form a better route to nonhuman agency.

Jessica Ullrich

Animal Agency as Artistic Authorship

Traditional aesthetic thought places non-human animals in nature and not in culture. Non-human animals are generally considered to be artless beings without any urge or capacity to create aesthetic objects. To the contrary, the ability and the need to produce art is perceived as one of the last thresholds of humanity. Nevertheless in the last decades more and more contemporary artists involve living non-human animals in artistic productions. By doing so they declare some non-human animals to be co-authors of artworks and trust in their creative agency. But is it legitimate to take animal contributions to installations, sculptures, videos, or paintings seriously? Can non-human animals be aesthetic actors in their own right? The talk focuses on interspecies artworks that only come into existence with the help of non-human animals. While it seems clear that the participating non-human animals display some form of agency, it is debatable if they can be called artists.

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