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How to Not be a Stuffed Animal

Prof. Dr. Anna Lipphardt, Laurie Young, Dr. Susanne Schmitt

Forschungsprojekt der Volkswagenstiftung

Taxidermy sits squarely between the arts and the sciences - the skillfully prepared animal bodies enhance their surroundings aesthetically, they move us towards a range of feelings, and they have set off artistic traditions of their own. Through death, we learn about life, too. Taxidermy is used to teach taxonomy and the artful tradition of the diorama is an early approach to represent ecological connectivities. As a dancer and an anthropologist, we are interested in the question of what it means to be affected through (e)motion. How can we translate the sensation of being moved by animals in Natural History Museum settings into an observable, archivable, participatory event? This project is an experiment with "affective co-motion": by opening us to more possibilities for being affected, we increase our own power to affect in return (Thain 2008). During a 14 months research and a 10 months production period, we share working practices and methodologies: choreographic thinking and an ethnographically trained eye - both with a sense for the conceptual. Six Natural History Museums provide our field sites for comparative research. We will explore the life of dead bodies through dance and its applied choreographic tools and somatic experiences in dialogue with multispecies and sensory ethnography. These are new and intradisciplinary developments in anthropology that combine anthropological heuristics and biological knowledge about animal livelihoods. We will create a series of audiowalks that takes the audible as a starting point to set off a range of bodily experiences that orient participants towards a renewed and visceral understanding of animals on display and their museal surroundings. Our research/creation will be accompanied by a "teaching through research" project in collaboration with Prof. Dr. Anna Lipphardt, University of Freiburg.

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