Mielikuvitusystävä – Imaginary Friend
Nyky-yhteiskunnassa eläin on useassa muodossa esiintyvä tuote. Ihminen tuottaa eläimiä representoivassa muodossa esimerkiksi leluina ja lemmikkeinä. Nämä representoivat tuotteet ovat symboleita söpöydelle, viattomuudelle ja omistamiselle. Saako eläimen pyyteetön rakkaus meidät näkemään ne antropomorfisina – ihmisen kaltaisina – olentoina? Vai saako valta ja omistus meidät ajattelemaan eläimiä sieluttomina koneistoina, kuten René Descartes niitä kuvaili? Mielikuvitusystävä kyseenalaistaa ihmisen tarvetta tuottaa loputtomia määriä eläintä kuvaavia tuotteita, unohtaen samalla sukupuuttoon kuolevat, alkuperäiset, yksilöt.
John Berger kirjoittaa kirjassaan Why Look at Animals luonnon merkityksen vaativan itse syntynyttä ja kasvanutta, eikä ihmisen tuottamaa, kuten ihmissivilisaation luonnottomat rakennelmat. Millainen on luonnon rooli yhteiskunnassa, jossa mikään ei kasva enää luonnollisesti ja tuotetut luontokappaleet voidaan pitää kotona? Onko myöskin villieläinten elinympäristö keinotekoinen, kun ihminen vaikuttaa siihen saasteilla ja metsätuotannolla, ja onko siten eläimestä itsestäänkin tulossa vain representaatio?
In the modern society animal is a product that exists in various forms. People manufacture animals in representative form as for instance pets and toys. The representational products are symbols of cuteness, innocence and ownership. These characteristics are being emphasized with the way animals are presented as caricatures, human like, or easily accessible. The cuteness is being portrayed through the huge eyes and bright colors in children’s TV series and human-likeness with the way animals are capable to talk to humans. The ownership and accessibility can be seen when pets are dressed up to human-like clothing or exotic animals are being kept inside terrariums. This project questions the reasons people manufacture this endless amount of animal representations, while forgetting the initial ones dying to extinction.
With their parallel lives, animals offer man a companionship which is different from any offered by human exchange. This companionship is offered to the loneliness of man as a species, writes John Berger in his book Why Look at Animals. The owner can mirror his or her character and feelings on the pet and behave however they want in their presence without being questioned. While the role of the owner is a leader based on control and power, the role of the pet is a follower or a guardian based on its loyalty.
According to Berger at home the pet lives in an artificial habitat, where it becomes creature of the owner’s way of life and thereby an animal puppet. Home is decorated and furnished by the owner’s mind and an animal in this surrounding has no other choice but to adjust to it. Pets becomes dependent of the owner and would no longer have chances to survive in its natural environment. Therefore, pet in its artificial habitat becomes also a portrayal of an animal.
In the industrialized world children are surrounded by imagery of animals. In early age people who are not owning pets learn to take care of something and having someone as a company through nursing toys. At that time the control and ownership has also been learnt. Is the altruistic caring we receive from pets and the way animals are portrayed in public imagery making us to see them as anthropomorphic beings? Or is the control and ownership making people to see animals simply as soulless machines, as René Descartes described them?
According to Berger nature acquires the meaning of what has grown organically, what was not created by man in contrast to the artificial structures of human civilization. People have an endless desire of controlling and owning everything beautiful and peculiar and therefore nothing is untouched or unaffected anymore. How is the role of nature in our lives if it does not exist naturally anymore and manufactured parts of it can be had at home? Are the living milieus of wild animals also artificial after they have been affected for example by pollution and forestry, and thus is animal itself becoming a representation?