How To: Art Made Together with Non-Human Animals
Collaborating With Pets You Do Not Own
By Connie Hwang (05/22/06 12:02:13)
Related animals: Cat, Dog, Human

I want to get to know you, build a relationship, and best of all, make something for you... Ding Ding, you are a quite a character and it's been hard working with you!

When we encounter interactions with species such as dogs, cats, and the other usual house pets, it is easy to become acquaintances. But to fully engage in a collaborative effort either for art, or other personal motives, it takes more than just a sniff of your body odor and a pet on the head.

1. Research
From my experience with working with a Chihuahua named Ding Ding and a poodle named Scottie, it takes a little research at first to start off the initial relationship. Just like humans, we like to get to know about the other person before initiating or exchanging more intimate actions. However, unlike a human, we cannot directly ask questions to a dog, cat, bird, or chinchilla! So we are left to do some of our own research, asking either the owner some questions or looking through the internet or books for information. It would be nice to know what breed your animal is and any pertinent details that might effect your collaboration (such information can be whether the dog is an aggressive breed…etc.).

2 . Get Comfortable – The both of you!
When collaborating with an animal, I feel that it is important to “get comfortable” with your collaborator. This is important for the animal too. If you show up once every week, or interact with it once in a blue moon, it is less likely to participate and work with you.

3. Work as a Team, not “I own you so do this!”
We have to remember that when we collaborate, it is a team work interactive.
1. Collaboration is defined as: To work together, especially in a joint intellectual effort.
2. To cooperate treasonably, as with an enemy occupation force in one's country.
With this definition in mind, I would advise you not to treat the animal as if it were a pet… it is your partner! And if you want your pet to respect you, then show it some love and respect too!

4. Patience is a virtue
It is vitally important to be patient with animals because we lack the ability to directly communicate with them, so it makes it that much more difficult to collaborate. Aside from that, we don’t know when the animal actually is in the mood to be nice and cooperate, so be patient if your dog or cat is PMSing and ignoring you on certain days. It’s natural, humans have that tendency too. Also, there might be sensitive and personal issues brewing within the pet’s family (such as its owner getting very sick, or death of family member) which may affect the pet’s mood- so be understanding, reasonable, and most importantly: be patient.

5. Record your interaction and activities
It is good to keep records of progress or regression of collaboration efforts, so you can always look back and study or make reasonable conclusions instead of faulty or misleading assumptions.

So with these steps in mind, I hope it can contribute to progression in your collaboration with animals! Good luck!

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