“Can you say hi to the people? Say hi, my beautiful gorgeous boy” (NSFW)
August 29, 2019 12:09 AM   Subscribe

MY BBY 8L3W (2014): Overly cutesy collage of YouTube videos in which women over-enthusiastically introduce their pets to the world. They all openly declare their love of their pedigree dogs and cats. (NSFW)
NEOZOON is a female art collective based in Berlin and Paris. Their work focuses on the relationship between animals and humans, and how modern societies deal with both dead and living animals. Neozoon actions take place in public spaces: city streets, public institutions and the web. Their artistic mediums range from collage to installations and film. Recycling found footage is also a recurring element in their work, where the group often employs amateur videos from YouTube.
(Text from IFF Rotterdam description on YouTube.)
posted by Going To Maine (17 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
Wow. That NEOZOON link has some really impressive and disturbing works on it. The disturbing being very much the point to them. Most aren't exactly violent or explicit in animal cruelty, though some like the Buck Fever one do show hunting, but they all really evoke a sense of uncanniness and/or make explicit some hidden in plain sight behaviors around animals that are disturbing when shown in this different context. There's more to it than that, but I'm having trouble finding words for the feelings the photos and videos evoke as the work is so effective at drawing out the unspoken.

Excellent post. (Though having it coinciding with post your animal month...)
posted by gusottertrout at 12:35 AM on August 29, 2019


Am I missing something? This reads to me as shallow, notlikethoseothergirls-ing, feminine-presentation-policing bullshit. What are they trying to demonstrate with the use of repetition and simultaneous playing of similar statements? That people who love their pets express similar sentiments? The use of short clips to extinguish the emotional content, and choosing only the particular girl-in-front-of-a-camera youtube style that's so widely looked down on, just feels easy, nasty, and condescending.
posted by tkfu at 12:39 AM on August 29, 2019 [10 favorites]


If you click on the Neozoon link, and then the autoload gif-ish image to the site, you'll be able to see their body of work which puts the main link in context to their purpose. The site isn't just about women and pets at all, but is very much about how people relate to animals.
posted by gusottertrout at 12:51 AM on August 29, 2019


I think the video is definitely nasty, no question. It -and the group's other work- make me quite uncomfortable. I often surround myself with cute animal content, frequently to the exclusion of most other media. Content that critiques that material gets under my skin in a way that makes me comfortably uncomfortable.
posted by Going To Maine at 1:00 AM on August 29, 2019 [3 favorites]


Woah, that got weird at 2:20, thanks for the NSFW warning.
posted by Dr Ew at 1:58 AM on August 29, 2019 [3 favorites]


...I didn’t see it as nasty, I didn’t feel it was gratuitously sniping on the individuals, I saw it more as “here is how people (not all people) talk to and about their animals”. I could imagine a similar video about guys skate-boarding and talking about the tricks they do. Or cars they drive. There is a sort of homogeneous ‘language’ people can fall into in talking about things and or behaving/feeling about things. Similar but different the collections of Instagram pictures that, though different, all ‘look’ exactly the same - same view of a beach, same pose before some landmark, same food arrangement, etc.
before YouTube Instagram Flickr etc. having this much data at hand to compare to each other was possible only for people doing editorial work for magazines or newspapers. Now that it’s in everyone’s hands, similarities in the ways humans respond to thing becomes all the easier to highlight.
I thought this was cool.
posted by From Bklyn at 3:50 AM on August 29, 2019 [2 favorites]


There is a sort of homogeneous ‘language’ people can fall into in talking about things and or behaving/feeling about things. Similar but different the collections of Instagram pictures that, though different, all ‘look’ exactly the same - same view of a beach, same pose before some landmark, same food arrangement, etc.

Felt the same. Reminded me of this recent, excellent post.
posted by lazaruslong at 5:40 AM on August 29, 2019


Hmmmmm. I'm actually pretty comfortable with critiquing cute animal videos that are genuinely not actually cute--I often wrestle with the urge to point out when, say, a cute video of a cat and a bearded dragon "playing" is not cute at all, when the cat could easily badly injure the lizard and the cat's "cute interest" is mostly predatory, or when a "cute" noise that a dog is making is actually a very serious threat, which doesn't become a less serious threat just because the dog is a ten-pound Pug rather than a hundred-pound mastiff. We do a lot of those, as humans.

This, though, this feels... yes, nasty is the word I feel, too. I think part of what I feel is kind of gross about it is that it's imposing a sexualized lens on these kinds of interactions that aren't necessarily inherently there, and drawing a lot of attention to something gross that isn't, necessarily. The "tongue-kissing," for example--dogs lick at mouths as part of natural dog social interactions, and brief species-mimicking behaviors are really, really common to observe during interspecies play, especially when a human or primate is involved. (Ever been at the zoo to watch a lion yawn? There you have it.) Just because a behavior is sexual in one specific human cultural context does not mean that it is inherently sexual in all contexts.

The effect seems to be to draw out the taboo and extend the taboos of contact between humans and animals, particularly the sorts of domestic animals who are every-day. Part of what bothers me is that it smells very much like an animal rights-style lens that I associate with some pretty atrocious human behavior to both other humans and to animals, most notably the same kinds of philosophies that have driven PETA to engage in deeply racist imagery and also to slaughter 99% of the pet dogs and cats relinquished into their care for rehoming, under the idea that human relationships with animals are so grotesquely unethical that domestic animals are better off dead than sharing their lives with us.

There is a difference between animal rights and animal welfare, and most of that difference is actually about the ways that the different groups conceptualize humans. Animal rights advocates do not think that humans have any place in interaction with other animal species day-to-day: livestock, pets, and research animals are all inherently verboten, because interaction with humans "taints" their inherent animal natures. Disgust imagery is common, and that often means dipping into narratives of human marginalization in search of ever more grotesque images with which to paint any human/animal interactive relationship.

In fact, looking on their text website, you can see NEOZOON describe themselves as part of the same philosophy:
N.: The philosophical concept of meat and flesh is often linked to the idea of masculinity and power. For example, in Germany, there is a magazine called Beef – for men with taste. We can imagine that there is an interconnection between patriarchal structures and the exploitation of animals. But that wasn ́t our starting point. In connection with our street art project, we realized that even in that context women were hardly to be found. This, and a lot of other circumstances attracted us to occupy areas that are still dominated by men. The women's rights movement is already 200 years old and still has so much more to do—but the animal rights movement is still at the beginning. There is a paradigm shift in the sciences and for the first time in the world history, people are thinking about alternatives to meat on a larger scale than ever—from a historical point of view this is highly interesting and we find it fascinating to problematize these issues artistically - with humour, irony, and sometimes also with mockery.
I've talked about why I am deeply and vehemently opposed to animal rights philosophies in the past here, but let me go on the record as saying that I am also opposed to this kind of emotional grotesquerie. Discomfort does not necessarily mean that the activities used to engage in discomfort are right. Horror does not inherently mean that the artists who work to create that horror are correct. And here, as always when we talk about the emotional approaches championed by animal rights sectors, I think it is important to consider where our emotional response is coming from, and what harms come from adopting a worldview that paints humanity as a whole as inherently disgusting and shameful. Because that is where this approach comes from.
posted by sciatrix at 7:12 AM on August 29, 2019 [24 favorites]


There’s more than a little “look at these vapid American instagram thots” to this purportedly feminist Berlin and Paris “art collective’s” vibe.

Yes, people use pets as a stand in for the kids they can’t afford or other meaningful relationships they don’t have. Maybe that condition deserves more concern than mockery.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:42 AM on August 29, 2019 [6 favorites]


The way people copy each other's mannerisms and affects in YouTube videos is really interesting outside of the context of interacting with pets. Like how there's a very specific way to say "Hi guys!" at the start of a video and 'like and subscribe' at the end. I remember an essay talking about how those Japanese shows where you watch people in the corner of the screen reacting to funny clips was somehow teaching the viewer to copy those reactions. I forget if the essay was good or not, but in this case with YouTube you can really see how 'this is how you act to be a feminine-presenting young woman' is the underlying theme of so many of them.
posted by Space Coyote at 7:47 AM on August 29, 2019 [5 favorites]


"I think the video is definitely nasty, no question. It -and the group's other work- make me quite uncomfortable. I often surround myself with cute animal content, frequently to the exclusion of most other media. Content that critiques that material gets under my skin in a way that makes me comfortably uncomfortable."

This isn't reading as nasty to me like it is to some of y'all. People aren't special or unique, and individualism is a societal curse, so there's always something humbling about seeing how similar we all end up being after desperately dedicating so much time and effort into presenting ourselves as if anyone ever had anything original going on and as if that were to be sought out or praised in any way, anyway. Yeah, not a super new or profound observation to make with art, but that's not a great measure of anything. I think if the intent was to be nasty they could've gone a lot further with their examples found, this didn't feel malicious to me and isn't what I'd expect from a malicious version of this concept.

To be fair, I will disclose I am not a cute animal video person, I will politely smile and nod through one if someone forces or asks me to watch one, but really they just make me a little annoyed and extremely bored. I say this because perhaps it is one of the reasons why this doesn't seem nasty to me, I don't partake in the depicted behaviours so I don't feel insulted or suspicious of their motivation.
posted by GoblinHoney at 8:07 AM on August 29, 2019 [2 favorites]


The way people copy each other's mannerisms and affects in YouTube videos is really interesting outside of the context of interacting with pets. Like how there's a very specific way to say "Hi guys!" at the start of a video and 'like and subscribe' at the end.

The Soup used to to have a joke about Ann Curry going overboard saying "good morning", which means that the simple act of a morning host saying "good morning" with professional writers and a professional presenter is so standardized that breaking outside of that standard becomes a joke. So some youtube teens all saying 'hey guys' in the same manner and loving their pets a bit too much feels like punching down.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:09 AM on August 29, 2019 [2 favorites]


I think if the intent was to be nasty they could've gone a lot further with their examples found, this didn't feel malicious to me and isn't what I'd expect from a malicious version of this concept.

No one in the video is speaking French or German.

At best it’s condescending, and dishonestly so; as if the cultures of the artists don’t have every bit as much schlock of this variety.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:13 AM on August 29, 2019 [6 favorites]


What makes the main linked video interesting, and what provides me, at least, with a sense of meaningful dissonance in many of the other pieces on their page is how so much of it is rendered so simply instead of attempting the more usual forceful agitprop.

Showing the women with their pets in the main video, or the guys unboxing snakes, people showing off their good/bad pets, or the people hunting in some of their other videos, as they do is showing them as they present themselves and drawing attention to the duplication in the presentations and attitudes.

The lack of explicit commentary leaves the viewer to read the behavior in the videos, with the group just drawing out the likenesses. The type of behavior exhibited, to me, does draw out well the complicated and contradictory emotional responses people have to animals and manages to make almost visceral something of the subconscious impulses we exhibit in dealing with them.

Talking of how natural the animals reactions to the women are, sort of misses what I find compelling about the video as that isn't really what I would think to question. In all the videos its how humans, or myself, in some without other humans involved, react to the animals or their fur, skin, meat, etc. They do the best job I've seen at rendering the mix of closeness and distance to animals in the culture in a way that really brings that uncomfortable mix of feelings home.
posted by gusottertrout at 8:16 AM on August 29, 2019 [1 favorite]


I'm not a YouTube person or, honestly, much of a cute animal videos person either. But I do have to wonder what weaponizing that discomfort is done in service of, and what other behaviors and ideas follow along with that kind of impulse.

To be clear, I get the point that the videos are quite well done in terms of adding a sense of grotesquerie and horror to videos that are, on the face of them, quite innocent. However, part of evaluating art is also considering the context and intent of the artist in evoking a particular emotional reaction in the audience, and in this case that can't really be disentangled from what is explicitly a political work of art.
posted by sciatrix at 8:27 AM on August 29, 2019 [3 favorites]


However, part of evaluating art is also considering the context and intent of the artist in evoking a particular emotional reaction in the audience, and in this case that can't really be disentangled from what is explicitly a political work of art.

Sure, but part of that context is the larger social/cultural framework with which it is being presented. It isn't only the artists agenda that is open to question, as necessary as that can sometimes be, but that of the system which they are responding to. I'm not a vegan or anything close, but I also can't deny the many problems that exist in how we treat nature and animals and how they do relate to other issues of power and control. But I've gone on enough in the thread, so I'll leave it there.
posted by gusottertrout at 9:09 AM on August 29, 2019 [2 favorites]


My experience with cats is that if they're weaned too soon they double down on the behaviour of massaging your chest & looking for a nipple. It's not "cute" in any respect.
posted by sneebler at 3:39 PM on August 29, 2019


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