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PhD Project

Challenging Anthropocentrism through Counter Art Histories and Non-Human Narratives


Resistance Within the Museum Fauna – Challenging Anthropocentrism through Counter Art Histories and Non-Human Narratives is a practice-based thesis within visual art and critical animal studies that is engaged in decentring the human in art history in favour of non-human animals. The theory and practice of this thesis is committed to finding ways of challenging an anthropocentric art world, and therefore the research approach is qualitative, meaning that it is not trying to measure, but rather re-think art historic narratives while concentrating its attention to the lives and histories of non-human animals on display at the museum walls.

The fauna of the art museum is not only the title of the thesis, but a term developed because of the necessity to hold space for a group of non-human animals whose commonality is that their habitat is the art museum, some are portrayed in paintings while others are grinded to become pigment, glue and paint. Moreover, one of the core strategies of this research is the refusal to view portrayed non-human animals as symbols for human affairs but instead recognize them as individuals with agency and relationships. To do this, anthropomorphism is used as a radical and empathic tool to envision and imagine new art historic where non-human animals are in the centre.

The thesis is written from the firm and unwavering conviction of the rights of all living beings, and that the killing of non-human animals within the production system of visual art needs to end. Therefore, the dissertation ends with a set of tools that can be used when visiting the art museum. The tools hope to create a feeling with another instead of looking at others, and the courage to engage in art works from a position of empathy towards all species.

*Anthropomorphism: is the attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities.
**Anthropocentrism: is the notion that humans are the most important entities in the universe and that we should view and interpret everything through the lens of human experience.

This research takes place at the Centre for Human Animal Studies (CfHAS) at Edge Hill University, UK, and is conducted part-time through the Post Graduate Research Study Program. During this process, I will be based in Sweden. 

What is Critical Animal Studies?

Some of the artworks part of the dissertation
CHAPTER SIX: Resistance Within the Museum Fauna, a lecture performance and virtual guided tour at Lunds Konsthall (2020)
CHAPTER FIVE: The Artist Named Me Nero (2019)
CHAPTER FOUR: On the Back of a Huntsman (2019), Nationalmuseum, Stockholm
CHAPTER THREE: Green Feathers (2018), National Gallery of Denmark, Copenhagen
CHAPTER TWO: The We and I of the Bishop’s House (2017), Bishops House, Lund
CHAPTER ONE: Isaac van Amburgh and his Animals (2017), Stene Projects, Stockholm

May 2022 – The thesis is now submitted! Soon there will be a defence and a pdf to download as well as an online appendix.

The supervisory team consist of

Claire Parkinson is a Professor of Film, Television and Digital Media and Co-Director of the Centre for Human Animal Studies (CfHAS). Her research interests focus on media, film and Animal Studies; sustainable consumption; eco-media; American cinema; activism; and, film and politics.

Her publications (as Claire Molloy) include the books Popular Media and Animals (2011) and Memento (2010) and the edited collections Routledge Companion to Cinema and Politics (2016), American Independent Cinema: Indie, Indiewood and Beyond (2012) and Beyond Human: From Animality to Transhumanism (2012). Her forthcoming monograph (as Claire Parkinson) is Another Point of View: Anthropomorphism and Animals (2017).
Clarie Parkinson –>

Dr Alex Jukes’ educational and professional background spans the fields of interactive media design, animation, film & TV production and fine art. Before working within an educational environment he worked within the media industry as a practitioner across a number of fields including 3D modelling, animation, video game production, graphics for television and interactive digital media. In the past he has produced graphic animation sequences for Zenith North and Tyne Tees.

Alex’s academic research interests are concerned with materiality of 3-D CGI animation and his PhD by practice at Royal College of Art interrogates this subject. Alex has delivered academic papers nationally/internationally relating to this subject and produced and presented animations, exhibitions and interactive installation works that explore this theme via practice as research.

Featured image of the painting The Horse Fair by artist Rosa Bonheur