Exhibition Project
Becoming Animal, Becoming Human
Animal Perspectives
Jana Sterbak

At first glance some of the images in Jana Sterbak’s 2005 video installation, “Waiting for High Water,” might appear all too familiar. Piazza San Marco, San Giorgio Maggiore, Rialto Bridge – it is not necessary to have been in Venice to recognize these typical picture postcard subjects are located in the famous canal city. Upon second glance, however, they become deeply unsettling: Just as the winter high tide makes walking difficult for pedestrians, possibly even robbing them of their sure footing, the images themselves also defy the static capacity for watching, confusing the audience with shaky, low camera angles, slanting horizons and quick scene changes. This video was not recorded from the familiar perspective of the human eye; these recordings reproduce a dog’s view – that of Sterbak’s Jack Russell terrier, “Stanley.” They were produced with the aid of three small video cameras mounted on the dog’s head before it made its way through the bustling streets and squares of the flooded city. As a three-fold projection, occupying an entire room, they combine to form a panorama of immersive quality reminiscent of experimental cinema films.

The images in this disconcerting take on (city) space impose an awareness of the physical basis of sight, which is now recognized as something deeply subjective that cannot possibly be separated from the body and which is understood from a cultural-historical perspective as constitutive for the education of the modern, self-confident subject. Since the human observer thus finally adopts the animal perspective (or at least approximates it), this one time the animal is not an object of a glance but is itself the subject; rather than mere pictures of an animal taken by a human, this time an animal itself is taking pictures, even if not entirely autonomously.

Consequently Stanley, the Jack Russell terrier, becomes present as subject precisely in his invisibility. He emancipates himself through the motif of the glance, which has always been attributed an aesthetic-political authority function, by calling for a change in social relationships through altered perception.

Kassandra Nakas

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