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more cows

The cows have stirred some interest.

Maya Hottarek writes: "Über meine Google Suche ob Kühe larmempfindlich sind, gelange ich bevor ich zur Antwort stosse gleich auf andere Fragen. Warum weinen Kühe? Können Kühe in der Nach sehen? Was für Musik mögen Kühe? Was mögen Kühe nicht? Wie kann man eine Kuh beruhigen? Wieso schreien Kühe nachts?"

These questions bring to mind a wonderful project launched by the Finnish artists Terike Haapoja and Laura Gustafsson ten years ago: The Museum of the History of Cattle. Here too there are no easy answers to questions of the kind raised by Hottareck, but in the attempt to think them through, Haapoja and Gustafsson developed an impressive exploration of what it means to think beyond human history, human interests and perspectives on the world, to speak in the name of a cow: to speak cow as a language. "I borrow your words and carve myself into them, make a hole through them the shape of a cow. You might not see me, but you’ll see my absence. This is where my story begins."

One of the exhibition texts reads:

"In cattle culture, history is divided into three time periods. The Time Before History includes the history of cattle before the domestication of humans. After this comes the Time of History, which for many if not all cattle begins about 10,000 years ago, when bovine culture became intertwined with the culture of humans. The Time of History ended one hundred years ago, when human industrial society made it impossible for cattle to pass on their heritage to later generations. During the Ahistorical Period, cattle were cut off from awareness of their own culture in many parts of the bovine world. Museum of the History of Cattle has been created to fill this void."

It is also in this most recent period that European cows have been transformed from the lean creatures seen in Karuti's videos into the large and lumbering milking machines we know today, some of them so big and heavy that they can no longer safely negotiate the narrow mountain paths to their summer alps and down again. "Calves were taken from us immediately when they were born, and family lines were scattered out of our sight. Doing was reduced to so little that all that was left of our habits died away. We did not learn from our mothers but from the machine that told our bodies how to stand and how to eat. Stuck in the industrial process we would live in collective isolation, cut off from all relations that could anchor us to time, history, culture."

How often this has happened. How deep it runs.

The cows are walking backwards. Aren't we all?


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