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A New Relationship between Animals and Humans: Zoopolis. Inventing a vegan art of painting.


Over the last few months, I thought a lot about the fate of animals. I find deeply unfair how we exploit them, whether for meat, dairy, eggs, leather, fur, or in the case of scientific research, animal testing, or the entertainment industry (hunting, zoos). Whoever has shared his life with a pet knows how non-human animals suffer and want to live as much as we do. So, how can someone fight this profoundly entrenched injustice that spreads on such a large scale? The first step is to change one’s habits. That’s why I became vegan. Then, how does one bring about this concern in the social and political sphere? And for me, how to translate that in painting? It’s not easy to avoid clichés. Bucolic landscapes, even with cows that graze serenely, don’t appeal to me very much!

First, I thought I would denounce the situation where I find it most horrific: I drew slaughterhouse scenes. It was unbearable to look at. I don’t know how I could have pursued these works until their completion. So I abandoned them. Anyway, no one can stand such a heavy emotional load — it’s even worst than a crucifixion! Similarly, no one can stand the view of a real slaughter. That’s why we conceal it. It made me understand that it’s not by knocking out the viewer that he will come to adopt a more compassionate lifestyle. After all, we don’t ignore the killing of farm animals. Most of us just choose to stick their heads in the sand about it and not to make it a moral issue.

But then, what should I paint? After reading Zoopolis1, a political theory of animal rights based on citizenship rights theory (as a way to include all animals in the moral community and provide them with basic animal rights), I moved on to a different path. More precisely, I thought I would imagine what a new relationship to animals could be if it was free of exploitation and oppression. What could a healthy relationship be? How to put it into visual works of art? Also, how can I avoid the everlasting anthropomorphism when it comes to representing animals — which makes them merely means of expressing our own fantasies — and paint them how they really are? That is, individuals with feelings, willpower, intelligence, social relationships, a habitat, etc. So, here’s the challenge that I set myself.

1. Will Kimlicka and Sue Donaldson. (2011). Zoopolis, A Political Theory of Animal Rights. New York : Oxford University Press.



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