This much I don’t know: the world as non-human language

Much of the current research into the language capabilities of animals works naturally from a definition of language based on an anthropocentric model. If we accept for the sake of inquiry Wittgenstein’s notion that language precedes thought, then the human worldview is prescribed by its linguistic model. Furthermore, what lies beyond this model would comprise the world we do not understand. In this sense, the world with which a subjective consciousness engages is a world of language that is not yet understood. Bridging the philosophical concerns of perspectivism with the phenomenology of perception and studies into sensation and affect, this paper will frame an interest in the communicative abilities of cetaceans and an artwork that translates the portion of the cetacean voice that is inaudible to humans into worldly objects. The main implication explored is that research pursuing an understanding of animal communication based on an anthropocentric language model will further the language of science as much as it might further inter-species communication. Working from the presupposition that meaning exists in the ultrasonic voice of whales and dolphins, the artwork promotes a non-human, animistic worldview allied with what biologist E. O Wilson calls “volitional evolution”, or evolution by choice.

Chris Jones is an artist and teacher, serving Emily Carr as the Coordinator for the Master of Applied Arts Low Residency program and the Assistant Dean of Graduate Studies.

Chris holds a PhD from the University of Westminster UK, for research into the experience of new media in art. His interests extend from the implications digital media hold for the history of the image as an aesthetic and political discourse. He has also written and lectured on the concept of methodology in art to address questions around the epistemologies of interdisciplinarity within the emerging discourse that aims to conceive art research.

Chris’s creative practice is rooted in photography and video. His process combines traditional and digital media, often using several different lens configurations and scanning techniques to arrive at a final single image. His work has been exhibited in Canada and the UK, and is in numerous private collections.

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