Lepus: My hare-related project

After I did my additional research, I brainstormed some drawings again and finally had an idea. I decided to make a model of a hare that fit over a large flat-screen plasma television/monitor, in which several pieces of the hare had been removed through which you would watch small videos related to hare mythology and stigmas related to women, as previously mentioned. The removed pieces would look like raw flesh and would be pierced with knives, forks and spoons.

This piece plays on the idea of the hare as a mythological animal, as seen in its leaping position that has been commonly used throughout history in various implementations, such as coins, paintings, sculpture, and jewelry. At the same time, the overall form I’ve created also represents raw flesh and is meant to relate to the hare’s long history as a prey animal and food source. The round background that the hare is mounted on relates to the moon, to which hares are overwhelmingly associated in myths around the world.

The videos I’m using come from Archive.org. Most are from the Prelinger Archives except for a few, such as the Bugs Bunny cartoons. The large majority of them are dated from 1940-1960, though the range of dates comes from circa 1900-2000. When I started thinking about how I was going to relate the myths and history of the hare, I realized I needed to select videos that were more versatile than just stag and burlesque films. Thus, the film clips I chose range in subject matter from: burlesque and more explicit stag films, Bugs Bunny episodes, children’s nutrition, egg painting, male and female reproduction, censored pornography magazines, to clips about affection and love. To select my clips, I surveyed a lot of films. In some, I used just one or two clips but I still had to download them, import them into Final Cut Pro, and edit them. Out of 60 videos, I made 6 QuickTime files lasting about 6 minutes each. (I also made a 7th film that would only be used in the background which, at the time of this writing, I’m not sure if I’ll use yet.)

To project these videos, I used a free program called Video Projection Tools, v. 4.1. It was made in Max/MSP and it allowed me to rotate the video player window to fit my window cutouts. Since I’m running 6-7 .mov files, the computer I need to use has to be relatively fast and has to have Max/MSP installed.

I put all of my construction photos on Flickr and there are descriptions for each picture, so at the moment I won’t go into all that much description because construction was very involved. In phase 1 of my project, I tried to incorporate more Living Art ideas into the moon and I used some cellophane and some type of mesh material that I thought would nice in the light. In the end, it looked really busy and I thought it took away from the body of the hare. I also found that when people put the flesh chunks back into the hare, the put them in too far; I needed a barrier. I also didn’t go too explicit in my videos because I just wanted to make the connection, not to get to erotic.

In the next iteration, I took off the cellophane and mesh and remade the background to make the moon connection much stronger. It’s a much more attractive background. I also added another layer between the hare and the monitor, which also acts a barrier for the flesh chunks and makes the removal of the chunks a more visceral feeling. After all this, I also added a plate, which looks like someone’s just been served chunks of meat. The plate and the body of the hare are both really disgusting, but the moon helps make it look quite beautiful.

I’m very happy to have updated the look of the piece because the new looks seems to connect my ideas much better. In addition, I also made the videos more explicit and some are now a little bit longer, which I changed because I wanted to try and push the level of comfort with my pieces. When I did the video editing, I started to become both desensitized to the nude bodies and also disgusted with what seemed like exploitation of women. Making the flesh chunks as disgusting as possible felt a bit like retribution.

This was a fun project. It was a lot of work, but I’m happy with how it turned out. In the end, I felt like I had really achieved what I’d hoped – something revered yet reviled, much like hares and women.

Prototypes for Lepus

For my final project in three of my courses, I created an interactive video installation in which I aimed to connect the mythologies of the hare with stigma’s associated with being a woman. I incorporated the hare to fulfill the requirement for my Animals, People and Things in Between class. The video aspect was for Video for New Media, and I incorporated principles I’d learned in Living Art into the film editing and the creation of the physical piece. This post is a discussion of my brainstorming process.

Before I started this project, there were a few phases in my brainstorming that included sketches, word associations and physical prototypes. In each of two classes, I created a physical model/prototype that focused on either the video aspect of my piece, or the physical aspect.

For the video aspect, I had the idea of the viewer peeking into small windows of action, so that the whole was revealed in pieces and not all at once. Using the Video piece

The feedback I got back was that the video content I was using, amateur movies from the 1939 World’s Fair, didn’t seem to fit the peep-show aspect of the physical frame.  I also got feedback that the video quality of the monitor made it too easy to see that it was a monitor (instead of 6 little monitors, I suppose). It was suggested that I use a projector instead. And porn.

For the physical aspect, and as my research into the hare continued, I had the idea of enclosing the viewer into the project itself. The video aspect would be a part of the physical space, and would only be revealed if you were inside the project piece. I made the prototype out of cardboard and hot glue. When I thought about the scale of the piece, I was pretty sure that I had no idea how I’d be able to physically make it. Then, when I presented this piece, the feedback I got was to consider making two of them and to have some way for people outside each piece to control what happens for the people inside each model.

By this time, I’d done more research. I’d finished my Reaktion book on the hare. I made a list of words that seemed to connect many of the stigmas associated with women with many of the myths related to the hare. I’d also started to collect video content, which for me included mostly vintage “stag” and burlesque films from the 1920’s – 1940’s. I even found a film from the 1950’s or 60’s linking pornography to Communism and the decline of all morality. I just cut out the speaker and kept the pornography. But, though I was certainly collecting many videos and doing much editing, I eventually found myself pretty stuck. I still wasn’t sure in what physical form my project would evolve. I knew I had the idea for putting people inside a physical structure, which was to try and get them really inside my animal. And, I also had these multiple videos playing that I really liked. I drew more sketches, but I didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere. So, I went back to collecting more research on hare mythology, and found more information.

Then, maybe the day after that (or maybe the same day?), my final idea emerged….

The Hare: Cute vs. Monsterous

My Reaktion book animal is the Hare. So far, I’ve read through chapter one and I’ve learned at least a few things about hares, as well as some of the differences between hares and rabbits. For instance, I’ve learned that rabbits and hares come from different genera – Hare comes the genus Lepus, while rabbits can come from one of eight (i.e., Pentalagus, Bunolagus, Nesolagus, Romerolagus, Brachylagus, Sylvilagus, Oryctolagus, Poelagus). One of the biggest evolutionary differences between hares and rabbits comes from the fact that hares do not burrow as rabbits do, which means that their primary defense is to run away rather than to run and hide. This means that they are over all larger and have more developed senses and physicality for escaping. The greyhound, a dog bred for speed, is still no match for the hare which has thigh muscles that have evolved not just for speed, but also evasion. Hares can change direction at the drop of a dime. You can surely find many videos of dogs sliding all over the place when they try to change direction too quickly.

Because of their evasiveness and the apparently difficulty in capturing them, as well as the reproductive qualities known to the Leporidae family hares have certain myths and fables surrounding them. They are seen as clever, though shy, animals because they spend most of their time alone. Hares are not as promiscuous, reproductively, as rabbits but females are known to have sexual relations while they’re already pregnant and to carry more than one fetus at more than one stage of development. Males are known to be quite aggressive during mating season, leading to the saying “mad as a March hare”.

Anyway, in fiction, I found 2 examples of hare characters that fit the monstrous and cute identifiers for this pin-up assignment. They are both from films. The first is Frank, the hare/rabbit from the film Donnie Darko, 2001. He is clearly the monster. I’m not exactly sure if he’s actually a hare, but he was mentioned in the Reaktion book so I figured it was OK. The quote is not actually something Frank says, it’s something Donnie says about rabbits, which seems relevant for the class.

The second character is the March Hare from Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, 1951. This hare is admittedly not the most cuddly version ever of the hare, (which is not exactly a cuddly animal in comparison to rabbits), but coming from Disney I figured it was safe. They are both hand drawn reproductions of the original characters.

For the Donnie Darko quote, I actually replaced it with something Frank actually says, but originally I had something that I thought was relevant to the class. This is the quote, this time in context. I highlighted the best part.

[from the Extended and Deleted Scenes. The class is discussing Watership Down]
Karen Pommeroy: This could be the death of an entire way of life, the end of an era…
Donnie: Why should we care?
Karen Pommeroy: Because the rabbits are us, Donnie.
Donnie: Why should I mourn for a rabbit like he was human?
Karen Pommeroy: Are you saying that the death of one species is less tragic than another?
Donnie: Of course. The rabbit’s not like us. It has no… keen look at something in the mirror, it has no history books, no photographs, no knowledge of sorrow or regret… I mean, I’m sorry, Miss Pommeroy, don’t get me wrong; y’know, I like rabbits and all. They’re cute and they’re horny. And if you’re cute and you’re horny, then you’re probably happy, in that you don’t know who you are and why you’re even alive. And you just wanna’ have sex, as many times as possible, before you die… I mean, I just don’t see the point in crying over a dead rabbit! Y’know, who… who never even feared death to begin with.

Subjective/Objective Migration of the Caribou

Caribou from Allison Walker on Vimeo.

For an assignment intending to investigate our chosen animal, Caribou, from a subjective and objective perspective, Jenine Durland and I made a pseudo-documentary of the Porcupine Caribou. I dressed as our character, while Jenine provided the voice-over in the video. Video editing by her; voice editing by me.

The mask is the same mask I used in a previous assignment. (Check out this video I made for another class using those stills.) For the antlers, I just used a coil of wire I found on the junk shelf and made a headband out of it. The car adapter serves the purpose of not only looking interesting but also keeping the antlers on my head.

It was a fun time, but I can’t say I’ll do it again. The weirdest feeling I had was definitely on the train. You can’t imagine the stares I got when I started to put on my mask and antlers. The dog in the video was also pretty confused with me and didn’t really seem to know how to react.

Cultural representations of the Shark

Land Shark
Used by Saturday Night Live in a comedy skit, the shark is used as the punch line of a recurring joke and is seen as a clever serial killer. The synopsis is the Land Shark goes to apartments and masquerades as a plumber or deliveryman (i.e. “candy gram”). Eventually, the resident is tricked into opening the door and is eaten by someone wearing a rather crude shark costume. The shark could be seen as a symbol representing a very serious crime, serial killing. However, if it were not for our general fear of sharks and knowledge of their nature to seemingly kill things indiscriminately, this sketch would not be funny.

Finding Nemo
The shark is used as an element of intimidation and humor. In this clip, the shark intimidates two fish into joining their fish eaters anonymous group where they attempt to change the impression of sharks from “mindless eating machines”. The sharks represent more simple minded characters, which is expressed through their Cockney accents, scars, and brutishness.

Shark Week
The Discovery Channel uses sharks as the theme for an entire week of television…with the theme of shark. It is clear that sharks are portrayed as dangerous, man-eating killers – as can be seen by the shark image on the homepage. They have also created a short Flash-based film/video called Frenzied Waters in which the viewer takes a first-person view of shark victim. There is a lot of educational information on the site, but it’s all cloaked within the image of dangerous, fearful shark.


So, actually, I presented the above in class and during the discussion my instructor asked about non-Western takes on the shark. Admittedly, I hadn’t looked them up. I took some time tonight thinking about this a little more, and this is what I found.

New Finds [Feb 23, 2010]
Sharks live in all the waters around New Zealand, and have been a part of the Maori culture for some time. References to the shark’s strength and power can be found in Maori mythology and art. Maori are indigenous to New Zealand. Most information comes from: www.teara.govt.nz

Maori mythology: Maori and their ancestors (Polynesians) even thought of sharks as protectors. The Hawaiian word for shark protector is aumakua. A shark-related myth states that a legendary ocean guardian (or taniwha) will come to the rescue of a crew if their canoe overturns. Another myth of the Te Arawa tribe also tells of a shark coming to the aid of a crew attacked by a sea monster. Afterwards, the tribe named themselves “shark” or Te Arawa.

Origin of the Galaxy: “In Māori mythology, Māui placed the shark Te Māngōroa in the sky, forming the Milky Way.” Māui is a demi-god in Maori mythology. The Milky Way was known as the “Long Fish” (Ika-roa) or the “Long Shark” (Mangoroa), or “The Fish of Maui” (Te Ika a Maui).

Maori proverbs: There are a few proverbs related to death and sharks, venerating sharks. One Maori proverb is: Kia mate ururora, kei mate wheke. Let me die like a (hammerhead) shark, not like an octopus.

The other is: Kia mate uruora tātou, kei mate-ā-tarakihi. Maori caught octopus by hand, so perhaps this shows a relative lack of respect for octopi vs. sharks. Let us die like white sharks, not tarakihi fish. Tarakihi is a type of coastal fish common in New Zealand.

Maori contemporary artwork: While I was searching for more information related to the Maori culture and the Milky Way, I found some artwork feature sharks that were once part of a gallery exhibit. This is the gallery website. A few screenshots (below), the red and yellow fan-like sculptures, and the masks are from the gallery.

Aboriginal Australian Views of Sharks
In addition to Maori culture, I also found an excellent and thorough 6-page write-up about sharks and Aboriginal societies in Australia. “The Cultural Significance of Sharks and Rays in Aboriginal Societies Across Australia’s Top End” states that Aboriginal groups recognize a greater variety of sharks and therefore see them as “powerful and worthy of respect”. Aboriginal cultures not only respect sharks, they also use them for food. In contrast, Australians of European origin (or Western thought, for that matter) view sharks solely as predators and tend to fear them irrationally.

Here are a few screenshots from my new research activities.

My deer self…expanded

As a deer, I slip in and out of the human world at a relative ease. I enjoy living deer-human, but I don’t spend too much time that way. It’s important that I learn to live my life as a human.

Most days I’m fine with my human self, but every so often I find myself more timid than usual and afraid of people. In most of these moments, I feel closest to my inner deer. I do not leave my home when I feel this way. In fact, I simply move about, throughout the day, as if I were exactly the same. I still enjoy the same foods, though I tend to not be too carnivorous at this time. I find that eating other animal meat as a deer feels close to cannibalism. However, even being a deer will not destroy my love of coffee in the morning, at least not on a cold day.

I still enjoy going for long walks, and I still have a tendency to think too much. However, one of the best things about being able to turn into a deer is that I get to hide in plain site.

Hiding in plain sight