Hubbub has gone into hibernation.

“Personality goes a long way”

'Save the Pets' by Tinkebell

‘Save the Pets’ by Tinkebell

Ear­li­er this year Dutch artist Tin­ke­bell stood tri­al togeth­er with the direc­tor of a gallery for the alleged tor­tur­ing of ani­mals. She’d cre­at­ed an art­work involv­ing a lit­tle under a hun­dred ham­sters in so-called ham­ster­balls. Accord­ing to her it was a com­men­tary on the many peo­ple on YouTube post­ing video’s of their pets in these play­things. She got sued because accord­ing to some the ham­sters had spent too long in the balls, lead­ing to severe fatigue. The san­i­tary con­di­tions of the balls and the pens they were kept in were below stan­dards too. She was acquit­ted on Jan­u­ary 21, but Tin­ke­bell – who is no stranger to con­tro­ver­sy, she once killed her pet cat to turn it into a hand­bag – has said that if her con­vic­tion would have lead to a ban on ham­ster balls, she would still be satisfied.

Crabfu's 'Hamster Powered Walker' on YouTube

Crab­fu’s ‘Ham­ster Pow­ered Walk­er’ on YouTube

All of which gets me think­ing about the com­pli­cat­ed nature of our rela­tion­ship with ani­mals. No-one can deny that watch­ing a ham­ster move around inside one of those balls is quite enter­tain­ing. (A ham­ster ball com­bined with Strand­beest-inspired legs is even more fun.) One is tempt­ed to think the same applies to the ham­ster inside. We imag­ine what it must be like to be the ham­ster inside the ball, and con­sid­er that to be pret­ty awe­some. Cirque du Soleil any­one? But how much of that is pro­jec­tion and how much is real? When we play with our pets we anthro­po­mor­phize them.

Photo of a football in a pig pen, taken during a project Buta field study

Pho­to of a foot­ball in a pig pen, tak­en dur­ing a project Buta field study

How would that apply to ani­mals we don’t keep as pets? I’ve been involved with a project code­named Buta at the Design for Play­ful Impact research group at the Utrecht School of the Arts. (Hub­bub is an ‘indus­try part­ner’ of the group, does­n’t that sound impres­sive?) The project is about inves­ti­gat­ing new ways of play between peo­ple and pigs that are raised for meat. Those ani­mals are incred­i­bly invis­i­ble to us, even though there’s tons of them in the coun­try. I am curi­ous how our per­cep­tion of them changes once we find out (as I did over the course of a few play ses­sions at a pig farm) that these are incred­i­bly clever ani­mals, you can have as much fun play­ing with them as with your pet dog. I’m not say­ing that should stop you from con­sum­ing pig meat. (Although it might. It has­n’t with me though.) But it would cer­tain­ly change your rela­tion­ship to them. It’s like Jules says to Vin­cent in Pulp Fic­tion: “Per­son­al­i­ty goes a long way.”

Still taken from 'Pulp Fiction'

Still tak­en from ‘Pulp Fiction’

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  1. Pepijn
    Posted February 25, 2011 at 20:16 | Permalink

    Very nice project. The more peo­ple con­nect to their food the more they will care. That should result in hap­py pigs. So, when does the pig league soc­cer com­pe­ti­tion start?

    By the way, the only pigs I eat nowa­days (twice a year or so) come from here:

  2. Kars
    Posted March 2, 2011 at 19:30 | Permalink

    Thanks Pepi­jn, we’re hav­ing a ton of fun with this. Had a look at some first bits of video we shot dur­ing a field test. We’re going for anoth­er round of test­ing soon and then hope­ful­ly we can share what we’ve done with the world.