Making-with Marlo: An Exploration of Cross-Species Sentience Through Nosey Means-to-an-End Props and Other Attempts

Kosovac, Ena
Braddock, Christopher
Redmond, Monique
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Doctor of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

Along with the project’s cocreator, Marlo (a Rottweiler), this research explores a domain of cross-species sentience. It attempts to reach across irreducible differences and access experiences that disrupt or transcend a human-centric lens.

Manoeuvring within frameworks of ‘surface encounters’ and ‘sympathetic leaps,’ this practice-led project operates through a methodology of making-with cross-species. By employing a studio-based, speculative approach to art-making that includes sculpture and participatory events, the research positions the making of props as a facilitating action, enabling potential access to cross-species knowledge. Also at play, are attempts to take deeper notice of the indefinable in other beings through cocreated social intimacies and a collaborative commitment to a ‘worlding’ of mutual grounds––all mediated through sculptural props as gadgets of play and tools exploring mutual sensory borders.

From these approaches, the research probes the capacity of objects to transcend the varied and shifting human signs we attach to them. It grapples with their ability to act as repositories of, or conduits towards, enigmatic cross-subjective knowledge that goes beyond accountable experience. The practice negotiates the possibility of embodied actions to bring an artwork into strange realms. It considers provisional objects as props to provoke or invite relation–– what I call means-to-an-end props––bespoke props with a nosey purpose, that being a desire to experience life as someone else.

The thesis references the writings of Ron Broglio on animal phenomenology and surface encounters; Donna Haraway on companion species and collaborative assemblages; Science-fiction’s core principles and select narratives, pondering the potential of science-fictional thinking as an approach to art-making; Susan Ballard on ecological sympathies; and others. The practice finds synchronicities (and differences) with artworks involving other animals, such as works by Catherine Bagnall, Shannon Te Ao, Kalisolaite ‘Uhila, Malcolm Whittaker, Diane Borsato, Joseph Beuys, and Lucy Meyle. The research also references artists Franz Erhard Walther, Lygia Clark, Natalie Jeremijenko, Layne Waerea, Chris Braddock, Monique Redmond, Eva Koťátková, Sandy Gibbs, James Tapsell-Kururangi, and (the film) Interstellar, that explore the way props can act as conduits towards relations.

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