Jochen Lempert, a biologist by training, seeks the pigs’ gaze. The photographer works with analog black-and-white processes and does without frames. These images seem organic, palpable, tangible – as if they were fragile skins of the visible, belonging to the cycles they tell of. And indeed, the gelatin extracted from pigs’ bones integrates the light-sensitive silver on the sometimes coarsegrained, sometimes finely nuanced grey photographic papers.
It is impossible to overlook the temporal parallels between the development of photography as a mass medium and the civilisational caesura as a result of which the pig is reduced to its status as a commodity, between the first mechanical production of gelatin paper for photography in 1884 and the erection of the first high-rise building in Chicago at the global centre of the pig farming industry¹ in 1885. The historian Sigfried Giedion also pointed out that the assembly line production of cars in Henry Ford’s factories (1915) went back to prior developments in rusk production and then in abattoirs:² from bread to meat to cars. Until the end of the 19th century, revolutionary uprisings were still ignited by shortages of bread. In the early 20th century, meat was often at stake.
The philosopher Jacques Derrida once wondered why he felt embarrassed about being naked in his bathroom when his cat was looking.³ What do we feel when we look a pig in the eye? Pigs, they say, never look up. They presumably don’t expect anything good from above. Pigs living in the fields, like the ones photographed by Lempert, do not need the “faithful” dog’s eye. Since these animals seek their food in the soil, they are considered “dirty”. In a value system in which “cleanliness” is often positively connoted in an almost appalling way, pigs really come off badly. But recently there has been talk of so-called “super pigs”. These animals living in the wild, the result of a human-induced cross between wild and domestic pigs, are said to be extraordinarily intelligent and ruthless. On the border between Canada and the USA, they are therefore considered a major threat, a risk to human health and safety.⁴
Perhaps what Fahim Amir tells us in his Schwein und Zeit is emerging here in a special way, as the animals are fighting back. Maybe we should really look them, the cattle, chickens and other farm animals, in the eye more often – not just the dogs, cats and horses.
And yes, pigs are not the only animals that have become invisible, and ultimately it is not primarily about farm animals.
Because PIG CONSCIOUSNESS is not only about the consciousness of a single species. PIG CONSCIOUSNESS is about the awareness of the complex interrelationships between beings on this planet, interrelationships between everything that exists. And what is art about if not about being-in-the-world?
¹ The Home Insurance Building of 1885 is considered the world’s first skyscraper.
² Sigfried Giedion, Die Herrschaft der Mechanisierung, Frankfurt am Main 1982, p. 102, 140 f.
³ Jacques Derrida, Das Tier, das ich also bin, Vienna 2010, p. 20.
⁴ “‘Incredibly intelligent, highly elusive’: US faces new threat from Canadian ‘super pig’”, in: The Guardian, 20.2.2023, https://www.theguardian.com/usnews/2023/feb/20/us-threat-canada-super-pig-boar (retrieved: 10.4.2023).
Born in 1958, Moers, DE; lives in Hamburg
• 1980–1988 Studied biology at the University of Bonn, DE • 1978–1989 Member of the experimental film group Schmelzdahin
E 2023 Lingering Sensations, C/O Berlin (SE) • 2022 Portikus, Frankfurt am Main (SE); Centre Pompidou, Paris (SE); Natural sources, Huis Marseille, Amsterdam, NL (SE); Fata Morgana, Jeu de Paume, Paris • 2021 Visible Light, ProjecteSD, Barcelona (SE) • 2020 Jardin d’Hiver, Centre d’art contemporain, Ivry-sur-Seine, FR (SE); Fenotipas, Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius, LT (SE) • 2019 Fotos an Büchern, Camera Austria, Graz, AT (SE) • 2018 Sudden Spring, Bildmuseet, Umeå, SE (SE); Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo, Madrid, ES (SE); Plant Volatiles, Kunst Haus Wien (Vienna) (SE) • 2017 Honeyguides, Sprengel Museum, Hanover (SE)
P Paare/Pairs, Amsterdam, 2022 • The Skins of Alca Impennis, Hanover, 2017 • Plant Volatiles, Berlin, 2016 • Composition, Cologne, 2014 • 4 frogs, Marseille, FR, 2010 • Recent Field Work, Cologne, 2009 • White Light, Tokyo, JP, 2008 • 6CO2+12H2O=C6H12O6+6H2O+6O2, Cologne, 2007 • Coevolution, Cologne, 2006 • Physiognomische Versuche, Cologne, 2002 • 365 Tafeln zur Naturgeschichte, Bonn/Freiburg (Breisgau), DE, 1997