Tuesday, January 13, 2009


I : Congo

That the chimps' natural habitats are dwindling by the day thanks to incursions and encroachments by voraciously parasitical humans is bad enough. (Why do I care? Why would anyone care that I care? Probably because that somebody cares a bit too much about the human race than they'd care to admit.) And I say bad enough because from the other perspective, so many who take it upon themselves to protect and care for the chimps, cannot cure themselves of their nauseating and patronising maternalism and missionary zeal, just like that vile Mother Teresa woman.

I'm referring to a recent type of political correctness in zoos and ape sanctuaries not to allow chimpanzees stimulation of human origin - for example dressing up in clothes, furniture, tea parties, children's toys, television, brushes and paints, and so on. I say give the chimps back their fucking paints, you bastards! Really, you can see the joy that these and other stimuli give, it enriches their lives enormously. Read Desmond Morris' Animal Days, or Roger Fouts' extraordinary Next Of Kin (My Conversations With Chimpanzees), if you need more convincing. I'd confidently aver that Congo's capable of much better more expressive art than any single candidate ever entered into the Turner Prize (and by the way, if one of Congo's paintings comes up at auction any time soon, I shall be bidding on it).

continue to part 2


Thomas Bey William Bailey said...

That Congo painting used as an example on the wiki-page has a real sense of composition and depth; I have to admit I was surprised momentarily- and then again not surprised, considering Congo was not some art school undergrad being pressured to place each and every painting into some sort of unnecessary socio-political framework.

Speaking of, did you ever read Frans de Waal's (I think) 'Chimpanzee Politics?' It's my only serious reading in this subject, I'd be curious to know how the other titles compare.

Nebular Mammal said...

This might be of interest to you: the music of dogs...


"The peculiar enjoyability of this music, which in contrast to much contemporary human music stands the test of repeated listening, forces one to the conclusion that, at least to the dogs, an abstract esthetic experience constitutes the 'figure' of their play."
(Oswald Wiener)

William Bennett said...

thanks for both these suggestions - Thomas, I've not read 'Chimpanzee Politics' but having glanced at the synopsis will get a copy asap - it would seem 'Next Of Kin' takes a different approach yet maintaining the same important parallels (in particular, that of the unspoken shadow of the nature of our own behaviour)

Walter Peck said...

On the subject of art produced by animals other than humans, I have a record called Broken Hearted Dragonflies that is solely made up of field recordings of the various insect life in Burma.

On paper that doesn't sound too interesting, but on the actual record it sounds fucking amazing. It's all high pitched frequencies and low pitched drones from various jungle creatures around Southeast Asia. There is also a little folk tale recounted in the notes of the album that makes the music slightly more magical.

I think there are some audio samples here for those who are interested: http://www.boomkat.com/item.cfm?id=31867

Thomas Bey William Bailey said...

'Broken Hearted Dragonflies' is really amazing, as is the little story about the courtship ritual that causes these insects to be so desperately musical (I won't give it away!)

I play this for people who have no advance knowledge of what it is (yes, a la the Modern Music Magazine Which Shall Not Be Named), and they invariably attribute the sounds to some state-of-the-art sound synthesis program...

Richo said...

Insect field recordings aren't entirely new. I have at least two albums that utilise them. Whatever, going back to the original post, I go along with the idea completely that our captive animal cousins have the very same 'rights' as us to 'our' sources of stimulation. If we were to push the argument against this to its logical conclusion, then surely common pets such as dogs and cats shouldn't be 'entitled' to their various plastic toys...? Or 'our' snacks? (Ever given a dog a, for example, a chip or a piece of chocolate...?)

Besides, if we feel we have some kind of right to other animals' natural environments, then it should work both ways.

I cannot see any reason why a captive (or companion) chimpanzee should be denied crayons or paints if these are a clear source of enjoyment.