Collaborative partnership between Laura Gustafsson and Terike Haapoja, ‘History of Others’, asserts that throughout history, declaring a group to be nonhuman or subhuman has been an effective tool for justifying slavery, oppression and genocide. Additionally, differentiating humans from other species has paved the way for the abuse of natural resources and other animals. Museum of Nonhumanity is a full-sized museum installation that presents the history of dehumanization, approaching this as a systematic act of oppression that connects xenophobia, sexism, racism, transphobia and the abuse of nature and animals.
The Museum comprises an exhibition and a site-specific programme of lectures, inviting local speakers including local civil-rights and animal-rights organizations, academics, artists, and activists. Its physical exhibition, meanwhile, is based upon an archive that reaches from 2,500 years ago to today, sourced by ‘History of Others’, and consisting of text quotes, encyclopaedia entries, collected images and sound. This material is realised as a ten-channel, seventy-minute video installation, set to the music of Olivier Messiaen, a twentieth century French composer and ornithologist (a zoologist engaged in the study of birds) who incorporated birdsong transcriptions into his music.
This installation moves through twelve themes that approach the human-nonhuman boundary from different angles: ‘Person’ (object, legal personhood, law), ‘Potentia’ (research, subjecthood), ‘Monster’, ‘Resource’ (industry, conflict minerals), ‘Boundary’ (female soldier, Amazon), ‘Purity’ (eugenics, institution), ‘Disgust’ (pest control, genocide, colonial history), ‘Anima’ (soul, reason, Western thought), ‘Tender’ (flesh, kitchen), ‘Distance’ (systems, holocaust, slaughterhouse), ‘Animal’ (the Other) and ‘Display’ (museum, references).
This immersive journey through the history of non-humanity deconstructs how the abuse of humans and other animals has been justified through the rhetoric of dehumanization; as a temporary institution Museum of Nonhumanity therefore stands as a call to action, to raise awareness of faults in the accepted status quo, and make dehumanization history.
History of Others is a collaboration between writer Laura Gustafsson and visual artist Terike Haapoja, established in Finland in 2013.
Laura Gustafsson, born 1983 in Finland, lives and works in Helsinki.
Terike Haapoja, born 1974 in Finland, lives and works in Berlin, New York and Helsinki.