This intervention intends to tap into the non-anthropocentric narrative attributes of cave art and centers around animals and patriarchy. At this point I’d like to design narrative spaces around four animal narratives that may serve to investigate the possible end patriarchy: the bear, the dog, the horse, and the goat. Theatre, so far contains is tied to the human perspective, actors “imitates men in action” (mimesis prakseos, aristotle), new theatre may put humans in perspective instead. Just like world views shifted from geocentric to heliocentric, I would suggest a non-centric playroom, a theatrical space, that does not claim to represent the world it its entirety but much rather as being just another information cluster in the infinite. The stage then creates awareness of flux and elusiveness of ground – of sedentary values. It questions history, time, space, and hierarchy. Hence, the narrative space, its objects, and players in this invention will be drawn from reality-based as well as fictionalized animals as follows:
In Orwell’s Animal Farm, an old boar summons the animals on a farm together and teaches the animals a revolutionary song called Beast of England. In URSA the Latin word for bear resonates and acknowledges the primacy of the she-bear. The oldest discovered statue, fashioned some fifteen to twenty thousand years ago, is of a bear. From antiquity to the Middle Ages, the bear’s centrality in cults and mythologies left traces in European languages, literatures, and legends from the Slavic East to Celtic Britain.[i] In pre-neolithic time, the now extinct cave bear not only was the most powerful animal but also the most present in the proximity of the cave paintings. Bear bones are the dominant finding in cave excavations. Headless bear sculptures have been found in large numbers in and around the caves, suggesting a popular bear cult. Headless – as some scholars suggest- because the sculpture itself just served as a base for a bear rug – including its original head, producing in this way the illusion of full size live bear during the ceremony. Bear cults have a prominent presence in ancient mythology, most often related to a she-bear, to female/lesbian sexuality, and the power and magic of chthonic goddesses. The visual correspondence between the rather round, dark, and fury appearance of the bear and the female mature genital seems obvious. The mythology around Artemis, and the cult celebrated at the Artemis temples may serve as exemplary evidence. The early Church was threatened by pagan legends of the bear’s power, among them a widespread belief that bears were sexually attracted to women and would violate them, producing half-bear, half-human beings. Eventually the demonic bears became entertainers in the marketplace, trained to perform humiliating tricks or muzzled and devoured by packs of dogs for the amusement of (hu) mans, while the lion was crowned as the symbol of nobility – and as I may add: masculinity.
In this invention I’d like to reinstate the she-bear, suspend the lion, and replace representations of lions in their capacity of patriarchal power by bears – in workshops, in story improvisations and other forms –like book corrections; new editions may be created, stories altered.
What are the parallels between the domestication of wolves – turning them into dogs– and the ‘domestication’ of women other than time? The dog, man’s best friend, a rich source of reference and social research, is the only animal that owes its existence to its submission to humans and by doing so, it changed its identity, name, nature, and race – from wolf to dog. The she-dog, the bitch, the son-of-a bitch – since became prominent and vibrant female-related pejoratives, while the wolf serves as a colloquial term for a womanizer. Considering the representation of ancient goddesses and mythological women as powerful, awe-inspiring, and in times cruel – they were just like wolves. The nature of those fears might be detected in what Joan Bamberger identified as justification myths.[ii] These myths typically feature a fearsome, cruel and vindictive earth goddess who murders her children (or abandons children, then raised by wolves) and in the end is killed or banished by her heroic son. Mythology conjures a frightening picture of the feminine, suggesting that the collective neurosis of men is the fear of the feminine. ‘Patriarchal normality is as a form of fear of the feminine.’[iii] Anthropological research on ancient bones also suggests that in pre-neolithic times, female bodies were not smaller than male bodies, and the current gap between the body height of men and women may be the result of patriarchal breeding. Men prefer smaller women, tall women were lesser selected for reproduction.[iv]
Hence, is it possible that not only the wolf transformed into a new species, but women also? Were women, before patriarchy turned them into bitches, actually a different species? And consequently, why have some wolves traded their freedom for dependency –maybe security– while others didn’t? Also, current efforts to resettle wolves in Europe, and the conflicts deriving from those efforts, can they be interpreted as an indication for taking-back patriarchy?
The horse is a gender-shared animal-topoi. It is one of most represented animals in cave paintings, and a symbol of freedom, power and means of individual transportation for men. The cowboy and his horse, the king on his steed, (not on the mule), the fascination of the beautiful und fastest horses is proven all through recorded history (today in parts replaced by cars). For women on the other hand, the most striking and idiosyncratic relationship with horses happens typically in early adolescence. The girl’s room is covered with horse posters, and horseback riding is a known obsession that girls often enjoy – especially in their early phase of coming to sexual maturity, most often in regard to ride the stallion. Barbie owns horses and riding outfits etc … The question here aims to explore how a narrative around horses may serve as a consolidating story, recurring to a shared desire for freedom, and in regard to the function of horses in nomadic cultures – to a shared desired to break out of the sedentary impertinences.
The word tragedy comes from tragos and oide, which means literally “he-goat” and “song”. The origin of tragedy remains a subject of debate. Some scholars suggest that the word refers to a goat having been sacrificed before the theatrical performance, others suspect a goat was given as an award for the best performance afterwards, yet others connect the origins of tragedy with Dionysus, the satyr-like transgressive God and his ritual symbol, a goat’s penis. These explanations are not mutually exclusive. Considering the presence of pity and awe (Greek: eleos and phobos) as formative elements of tragedy, it seems surmisable to connect tragedy with the whining of slaughtered animals, and through the element of pity, the trauma of the shepherd slaughtering the wailing creature. He silenced the lambs. Living a semi-nomadic lifestyle cattle breeding was their main source of income. The shepherd became integral topoi in patriarchal culture. The Hebrew deity YHWA derives from Amen-Ra, the Egyptian God of the herds.[v] Therefore, it is no accident that shepherds were present at Jesus’s birth – less as a reference to the underclass in early Christendom, but rather as the implicit founders of religion. The Lord is my shepherd. The myth of the shepherd appears over and over again in patriarchal iconography, including the cowboy as an anarchic adversary of the cattle baron (representing the archetypal patriarch in the Western film genre), that is modern tragedy.
[i] Michel Pastoureau, The Bear: History of a Fallen King, (Belknap Press, 2011).
[ii] Bamberger, Joan, The Myth of Matriarchy, in Women, Culture, and Society, (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1974) p. 261-270.
[iii] Erich Neumann, The Fear of the Feminine, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994).
[iv] See with more scholary evidence, Margarita Sáenz-Herrero, Psychopathology in Women: Incorporating Gender Perspective into Descriptive Psychopathology, (Springer, 2015), 116.
[v] In the fifth year of his reign, around 1340 BC, Egyptian king Amenhotep IV took decisive steps to establish Amen-Ra or Aten as the exclusive, monotheistic god of Egypt: he disbanded the priesthoods of all the other gods, and diverted the income from these other cults. Yet the Egyptian people did not follow the new system and after a short time the old polytheistic system was re-established. One minority, however, named the Hebrews, kept the monotheistic system. After a failed rebellion 55 years later, they fled Egypt and settled 40 years later in Judaea. The former Egyptian god of the herds (sun and fertility) Amen-Ra –now spelled in Hebrew YHWA became the god of their new mosaic religion. In a similar way, Freud argues that Moses had been an Atenist priest forced to leave Egypt with his followers after Akhenaten’s death.