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Seminar exploring the emerging tripartite relationship between animals, humans and technologies | Organized by Gavin Mueller and Mari Bastashevski.
Event details of Clever Monkey – Stubborn Donkey 
8 March 2023
14:00 -17:00

Today the absence of animals in our lives is inversely proportional to the multitude of media beings that look back at us from eternally scrolling canvases. Following the monkey & the donkey as our guides, this seminar will examine how these animal figures, frequently referenced in in continental philosophy, are deployed to reinforce age-old cliches and hierarchies. Our goal will be to transcend this rather vapid metaphorical trope to explore the emerging tripartite relationship between animals, humans and technologies. Focusing on the instances that already succeed as examples of what Isabelle Stengers calls a “diplomatic intervention”, the seminar will match cultural theories with concrete and material media practices in an attempt to enable a shift from thinking about animals and technologies to thinking with other-than-human cultures.   

Situated around a specific enduring problem, each of the six sessions will follow the proverbial monkey and the donkey from the “bad” new things to the “good” old ones and back again, concerning ourselves less with finding one particular moment where things all went wrong, but rather the auxiliary paths that perhaps offer greater unexplored potentialities.  

During this seminar we’ll engage with and reference authors including: Carol Gigliotti, Lorraine Daston, and Gregg Mitman, Cary Wolfe, Tom Tyler, Oxana Timofeeva, Patricia McCormack, Ted Chiang, and Tim Ingold. We will also analyse the questions that arise in each session by drawing on historical and contemporary media practices concerning animals and tech, touching on works by Karin Bolender, Renata de Bonis, Ian Ingram, Deke Weaver, Pierre Huyghe, Nicolas Primat, and Alexandru Solomon. During the seminar, all participants will be asked to prepare conceptual proposal, a question, or a critique relevant subjects discussed by the group as well to engage with the ideas of other participants. 

After the first seminar, the readings will be provided three weeks in advance of the upcoming seminar session.  

While this seminar is structured towards students and scholars who have some experience with cross-disciplinary ideas, it is open to anyone willing to contribute from their particular knowledge position in a constructive and supportive way. 

Our first meeting will be held on March 8, in Bushuis F2.11C from 14.00-17.00.


Gavin Mueller is Assistant Professor of New Media and Digital Culture at the UvA. He is the author of Breaking Things at Work (Verso 2021) and Media Piracy in the Cultural Economy (Routledge 2019).

Mari Bastashevski is an ASCA visiting researcher. She is an artist and researcher who has taught at KIT NTNU, Academy of Architecture, and KABK. Her current work centers on future imaginaries that cut beyond the culture of techno-optimism and collapsism. In 2021, while at ALICE lab at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne, she spend a lot of time with a rout of garden snails, thinking through the tripartite relationship between animals, humans, and technology and working on research that explores how emerging technologies of seeing, such as VR, could become sites of field research into said relationships. She has exhibited with Bonniers Konsthalle, Maison Populaire, Musée de l’Elysée, HKW Berlin, Art Souterrain, Noorderlicht, and published in Time Magazine, The New York Times, Courrier International, Le Monde, e-flux, VICE, among others. She was artist-in-residence at Chateau D’Oiron, Cité des Art, Mediamatic, and IASPIS and a research fellow at the Data & Society Institute in New York and ISP, Yale.

Interested participants should register with Gavin Mueller to receive the readings.