Captivity and uncaptivity and the return to a new
By Mark Batongmalaque and

Started on: 04/25/06 01:26:15
Medium: Visual

The family across the street from me has 6 pets, 3 dogs and 3 cats. They, the pets, are very problamatic for me. The owners are not very good about controling and caring for their animals. That is not to say that they are mistreated in any way, the owners or the pets. My beef with the owners is that they let their cats out to roam the neighborhood, and the cats come over and poop in my lawn. It makes the outside of my house smell. Sure, it could be solved by walking over and telling the owners to come clean up their pets, so through extension their own, mess. But that is often tedious and exasperating, and often times met with grumbles from my neighbors. I could also clean it up myself, but if I wanted to do that, I would get my own pet. The couple of times that I have cleaned up the poop, I walk it over and dump it on the owners doorstep. None of these things has stopped their cats from coming over. I ask, why have a cat if your not going to spend any time with it, and the only interaction you have is after you open a can of food and you give it to the cat? More so, why have 3 cats? From my perspective, there seems to be some discrepancy of the idea of ownership, either on my part or on theirs or both.

If these cats are owned by someone, then they, at some point, were in captivity. These cats have transcended their own captivity and reversed it onto their owners. The cats are free to come and go as they see fit, as if they were wild, and the "owners" are under a continual obligation to care for these cats, through feeding and cleaning and other tasks. I am not sure if the owners are aware of this reversal of power.

What I intend to do is trap the cats. I will construct a device that will contain the cats in order to allow the cats' human owners to relearn their initial relationship with the cats, one where they hold ownership and captivity over the cats. So I will make a safe trap for the cats. I will trap the cats. I will give the trapped cat back to the owners. The owners will strengthen their relationship with the cats in some unknown way.


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Comment by LisaJ (04/25/06 10:57:58):
To make it a collaboration I think you need to make the cats and your experience even by making it a scary and confining situation for you as well.

Project Updates
05/01/06 21:28:02 - tiger traps

I have begun researching various traps and techniques. I have decided on making something mobile and manageable for one person. I want to make it from easily found and cost effective material. I am considering designs based on pitcher plants and on basic box traps. I am still thinking of how to make this more uncomfortable for me or comfortable for the cat.

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Comment by LisaJ (05/02/06 10:25:56):
How about "working with" the "material" the cats leave for you?

05/09/06 07:50:22 - some interesting points

Last week we discussed some implications of this project. How does this function within the context of art? How is this a collaboration with an animal? What considerations are made on the part of the owner and the animal? Are there legal issues?

I will start with the last question and work my way backwards.

The legality of this project hinges on the idea of "malicsious use". I spoke with an operator at the animal control/shelter this weekend. They said that I was not allowed to make anything that would intentionally harm an animal, and that it would be covered under animal cruelty laws. But I am allowed to build anything I want on my property, under the building code regulations, and if an animal engages it and becomes stuck, that is out of my hands. I got the second piece of information my suggesting that I was building a water tank and asked what would happen if a cat fell in, and related that to an empty pool. The person was more concderned with standing water and directed me to check with local building codes. They also said that building codes have some set of criteria to keep buildings from being open for animals to venture in, such as grates on ducts and vents. Building codes are tricky but avoidable. I am not building any type of living space nor will it be permanant. Notably, Chris Burden recently did a project where he built a 4 story building, legally, beyond the reach of code.

At this point I have yet to consider how the other parties will take this project. I am not sure that it matters to me. While not set in stone, I feel that I can make the piece unencumbered from how it will be recieved, an anti-receptionist theory. This is an aggresive piece in concept, and I am considering to allow that to carry through in the first incarnation. That being said, I feel there are myriad ways to complete this project and will explore them furhter as time goes on. Also, I am not sure if this piece needs to be exacted and used. It can exist as a sculpture full of the potential, dangerous or otherwise, it has not used.

The collaborative aspect is an odd one. What is the difference of building a trap for an animal and building something for a trapped animal?

The idea of the trap has been explored by Andreas Slominski, and Andrea Zittel began her career by building holding pens for breeding new types of chickens that she was creating. Within the contemporary context, humans have exerted themselves as the more powerful entity many times. For this project, I am going to build something that is a sculpture that incorporates information that I am gathering on trap making. It will be both sculpture and trap, because neither needs to be exclusive to the other. The perception of the piece can be seen through its formal aesthetics and through its application in the outside world.

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05/22/06 22:57:17 - in theory...

What I have decided to do is to make the most dangerous trap I can and not let it work. I will let it exist with all the potential savagery but without testing it. Short of digging an actual whole, I will create the form of the whole above ground. I have also been thinking about more common traps, namely mouse traps. A big issue with mouse traps ( the actual trap and not the board game) is that they are inhumane, so while I am building a dangerous trap, I am also thinking about how to make a kinder gentler trap for mice that you can make for a very common problem made with equally common objects.

So my design for a homemade mouse trap consists of a tall bucket or trash can, a large paint mixing stick, a ledge, and bait. It's all pretty self explanatory once you see the picture. Balance the stick over the ledge with a piece of bait on the end. Put a trash can under it. When the mouse goes out for the bait the stick falls in along with the mouse and the mouse can't crawl out. What you do with it after that is up to you.

easy mouse trap
an easy mouse trap

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05/22/06 23:03:08 - other things I'm thinking of

While thinking of the trap, I have started to consider the negative space a trap creates. What is the essence of a hole. Can ownership over negative space be had, and if so what do you own? In the instance of the swimming pool, what is owned, the concrete the water the non-space? Where does property beging and end in it's verticality, if I were to own a plot of land, do I have rights as an owner above and below the 2d square footage? Can I stop planes from flying above and sewers from running below, or is that subject to immenent domain? I made a painting about this once. It's interesting how the same ideas return through various manifestations within my art practicum.

ownership over a hole
a painting that explored the ideas of ownership over a hole

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05/29/06 22:32:25 - so this is the design

here is a computer rendering of the trap, sans one panel, in order to convey what will be inside the trap. No drawn cats were injured in this project.

the trap
the trap with a cat and without one side

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06/14/06 02:09:30 - so more about holes

I was watching animal planet tonight, and the anatomy of how a woodpecker works was discussed. The most interesting thing was that the tongue of the woodpecker wraps around, upward from the nostrils, over the brain in two segments, then as it passes the spinal column the two pieces converge to form one singular tongue. The reason this happens is so that there is a built in cushion to absorb the impact of the woodpecker pecking wood.

But even less interesting than that, and more related to the title, was that there was a man who collected woodpecker holes. He displayed pieces of wood and had hundreds of them. There's an interesting collaboration project. I'd like to buy nice pieces of wood and make sculptures with it and then give it to a woodpecker. An extension of that is a beaver, but far more invested in southern California issues is the bark beetle.

The Bark Beetle destroys thousands of trees, and has been loosely connected to major fires that destroyed the San Bernardino National Forest in 2004. You can identify a tree that has had a bark beetle by finding caligraphic etchings throughout the wood. They really are quite beautiful.

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06/16/06 00:22:44 - the hole enchilada

so this is an article more concerned with hole digging than animals, but related to a previous question I posed that stemmed from this project.

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