In 2011, wildlife photographer, David Slater, enabled the generation of some photographic images taken by Macaque monkeys in a Sulawesi jungle in Indonesia.
Slater licensed 3 of the images as ‘monkey selfies’ – Macaques who had pressed the camera while smiling or stretching an arm out into the lens, to a news agency. The images went viral online & off, their republication by Techdirt & Wikimedia triggered a suite of copyright, anti-copyright & judicial rulings concerning creativity, personhood & authorship as techno-animal networked entanglements.
The animal-human-camera participatory assemblage of the ‘monkey selfie’ poses both a different kind of relationality & triggers retreat into proprietary techniques & subjectivations. Anna's talk explores medial-animal assemblages as emergent formations of a torsion of more-than-human collectivation & will propose that such collectivities & modes of participation can only be understood transversally; that is, in terms of components that only hold the assemblage together insofar as they cut across it, twisting toward formations in which ’self’ is barely ‘human’. In the ‘monkie selfie’, this transversality develops through a mode of tool play. The resulting photographic images can be repositioned as diagrammatic remnants of monkey-camera-play style. We become more-than-human through our ‘play’ with these images as we cut across the ’self’ designating them monkey selfies. We are infected with monkey-camer-play through the smile & outstretched hand. We continue the image’s refrain of the self across networked distribution. The case of the monkey selfie exposes a collectivity in which animality & technicity are the conditions for thinking contemporary subjectivations in different registers.
Anna Munster is an Associate Professor in Art & Design, University of New South Wales, Australia. Her book, An Aesthesia of Networks (MIT Press, 2013) explores expressions of networks beyond the ‘link-node’ image & new understandings of experience that account for relationality in contemporary assemblages of human & nonhuman technics. Anna is also the author of Materializing New Media: Embodiment in Information Aesthetics (2006); a founding member of the online peer-reviewed journal The Fibreculture Journal & has published with journals Inflexions, CTheory, Culture Machine & Theory, Culture & Society. Anna's also a partner on Immediations: Art Media, Event directed by Erin Manning that explores novel speculative & radical empiricist concepts of the event through research creation.
Anna, a practicing media artist, regularly collaborates with Michele Barker, exploring animal, human & more-than-human movement & perception.
Monkey selfie taken by a Celebes Crested Macaques using equipment belonging to photographer David Slater. Source: Wikipedia. In December 2014, United States Copyright Office stated that works created by a non-human are not subject to US copyright. In 2016, a US federal judge ruled that the monkey cannot own the copyright to the images. Slater continues to claim copyright over the image.
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