Haapoja Wins a Prestigious Award for Putting Humanity on Trial
Terike Haapoja wins the ANTI Festival International Prize for Live Art
Terike won the ANTI Festival International Prize for Live Art on 29th October. The Prize underlines the importance of live art and her significant contributions to this vanguard arena of contemporary artistic expression.
The chair of jury, Eva Neklyaeva, described Haapoja's work: "At its heart her work is fascinated with how we perceive and apprehend and - perhaps more importantly - how we are perceived; how does the non-human feel our human presence – the animal, the mineral, the light and the life of the world, what is the real nature and impact of our footprint, our mark, our own signs of life. We know this one of the fundamental questions, one of the fundamental problems, of our age."
Terike Haapoja dares to challenge an entrenched social construction by stripping privileged humans of the power to parcel out the protections they demand for themselves. This lop-sided concentration of power has produced a civilization that supports brutal slaughter houses for animals, and mistreatment and genocide for un-empowered humans. Terika Haapoja is their self-declared spokewoman. Her latest art projets counter the anthropological institutions and attitudes that function like machines of targeted and willful abuse by declaring these'voiceless' beings to attain the status of political entities. Besides cattle, she has reached out to humans who are categorized as “others”: convicts, asylum seekers, children, foreigners or the mentally challenged.
Her drive for structural changes to common decision-making procedures and institutions aspires to incorporates these mute members of the planet's living populations a role in social decision-making processes.
To counter the violent logic of such political divisions, Haapoja created Party of Others in 2011. The "Statement of Principles” articulates the party’s platform. Significantly, it was formulated from a collection of interviews: “The Party of Others speaks for all those who don’t have a voice in social decision-making but who are nevertheless affected by the decisions: production animals, pets, wild animals, natural diversity as well as ecosystems such as rivers, swamps, mountains or forests.”
Haapoja launched the Party during Helsinki’s 2011 parliamentary elections, demanding inclusive representation and the values of social equality, diversity, and inter-species understanding. While the initiative raised much interest and garnered appreciable media coverage, it didn’t receive enough support to register the party officially, which required 5000 signatures. Perhaps she will try again in the future.
T.J. Demos’s recent essay explores this art initative in which fundamental assumptions are scrutinized according to ethics that are alien to them. It is entitled Animal Cosmopolitics: The Art of Terike Haapoja in the Center for Creative Ecologies. In it he describes Haapoja’s devotion to bringing a ‘biocentric’ legal system into operation that is divorced from the interests of corportions, the military, and the financial institutions.
The Trial, 2014, is part of an ongoing project entitled History of Others (by Haapoja and the writer Laura Gustafsson). In this work they established an imaginary judicial system that grants animals the legal standing to punish those responsible for their victimization.
Demos included the following description of the criminal court case that Haapoja devised as an art project. Here is the trext:
“State versus Perho hunters,” a group of fifteen people from Western Finland were recently put on public trial for killing wolves. After pleading their case, unsuccessfully, the jury sentenced them to imprisonment for a fixed period of at least eight years—a lucky verdict, as they narrowly escaped receiving life imprisonment for murder. During the testimony and cross-examination of the defendants, the jury heard extensive debate about whether the loss of life was justified, as the defendants claimed they were merely protecting the community’s children and livestock and maintaining public safety. Ultimately the jury favored the prosecution’s narrative predicated on the rights of the animals to be protected from unnecessary harm. The judges were asked to give their verdict on the perpetrators’ punishment. If found guilty, the options were as follows: life imprisonment for three “murders,” if the destruction of life was premeditated, cruel, or dangerous; imprisonment for at least eight years for the “slaughter” of three wolves; or imprisonment for four-to-ten years for the three “killings” under mitigating circumstances. The judges are also asked to decide whether or not compensations should be given to the Perho wolf pack.