This year the Zoological Garden Halle celebrates its 110th birthday and hence belongs
to a generation of animal parks founded in the second half of the 19th century in
many German middle-class cities. The main intention of these parks was to make the
diversity of life on earth accessible to a broader public, and to offset the exclusive
nature of medieval menageries. This can also be seen in Halle Mountain Zoo, which
comprises a vivarium erected in the early years of the zoo's existence along with
modern compounds appropriate in each case to the animals housed there to form an
interesting record of the history of this zoo.
The basic idea for the exhibition "Art for Animals" arose from questioning the traditional
visit to the zoo along with the usual role allocation between humans and animals.
Using artistic interventions eight artists attempt to change this relationship systematically
and to strip the visitors of their role as passive observers. Guest artists from
Halle and abroad were invited to make this attempt. The result can be seen in eight
works of art to be shown throughout the zoo grounds from 15 to 23 October 2011.
The approach used concerns the question whether animals perceive art as art, but
at the same time also questions the nature of the one-sided human perception of the
animal world. Of course it is speculation whether something like aesthetic sensibility
really exists in animals, on the other hand the limited possibilities of describing
our own perception of art is in the final analysis governed by similar laws. If we
take the title literally we confront the animals with something that normally is
only defined by human beings as art.
As an important component of the zoo the animals live in artificial surroundings
and in this limitation to their "animalness" are a priori objects of human culture.
With their "Art for Animals" the artists free the animal from its role as an object
and make the object of the exhibition the actual subject of the artistic perception.
The artistic activity receives in this way an unusual perspective because the usual
recipient is now the onlooker. However it is impossible to imagine that the animals
can express their experience of art in words. At the same time art in a certain way
also marks the limits of human culture because art cannot be easily reduced to a
single concept – even by those who are linguistically talented. Zoo visitors will
share this experience of limitations with the animals.
In the course of their comprehensive research the artists questioned behaviour biologists
and also the zoo staff. The exhibition "Art for Animals" is offered for a limited
time, with work from Hagen Bäcker, Brian Catling and David Tolley, Lune Léoty, Wolfgang
Müller, Thomas Rabisch, Bernhard Schipper, Veronika Schneider and Ralf Wendt.