Take a bow: Art and dog communication
Bentham’s query “[…] the question is not can they reason? Nor can they talk? But, Can they suffer?” (Bentham 8) drew attention away from language and the interior life of animals and focused it instead on the question of suffering. Just what suffering is left to the human to decide; a debate, which forms a large part of the discourse in the animal rights movement. But what happens if we were to return to the unanswered part of Bentham’s quote, the questions that Descartes so famously answered in the negative: “Can they reason?” “Can they talk?” These questions have been banned by scientific and philosophical discourse up until recently when the burgeoning interest in the ‘animal question’ re-opened the debate. Making the assumption that animals can indeed ‘talk’ I investigate the nature of dog/human/dog communication using as a conduit the art of South African artists, Elizabeth Gunter, Daniel Naudé and myself. I propose that dog to human and human to dog communication relies on nonverbal means such as bodily semiotics, prosody and other ineffable means that are not dependent on symbolic language.
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