From their earliest days, we teach our children about wild things. Even as more and more of them grow up in cities or suburbs, seemingly isolated from anything truly wild, we tell them stories and read them books about elephants and bears, monkeys and tigers. When you're a kid, almost all the good books are about these wild things, most anthropomorphised and friendly. To those of us reading these stories, this obsession with the wild might seem pointless or silly. But to a kid these pages are an introduction to our world and its amazing capacity for strangeness and beauty. We take our kids to the zoo because we know there is nothing quite so magical to those tiny minds as seeing what was fiction becomes suddenly so real.
But in time, of course, every child will see a zoo for what it is: a place where nothing is real, a place where wild animals cannot be wild, where every instinct is curbed by confinement or scheduled feedings.
The aim of having a zoo is to have a proof of the existence of the animals. It is a reflection of a triumphant Europe to classify and dominate; the concept of colonialism that started in the 15th century. These animals are being held as hostages from a conquered world, as a survivor to the road of extinction.
The animals held in these enclosures are deformed by captivity. It symbolises the intentions and actions of human societies towards the wildlife and, in a more general sense, towards nature. We exploit, consume, control and dominate the world.
Emilio Sanna calls it a concentration camp ethos created by modern societies and to tour a zoo is to understand the society that erects them. Concrete walls and electrical fences with painted murals are some of the elements found in an animals enclosure designed by us. This is what we want to do to the nature, supposedly to preserve and to protect.
Theatre of Cruelty is a series of work that reveals the best and the worst in us. It is about ‘ourselves’ as human being confer with dominance and power, often misuse it. It is about substituting rational order for nature’s apparent disorder. It is also about our confused relationship with the animals with which we share this planet. Lastly, it’s about a bounded space into which a number of people are staring in the expectation that something will happen.