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PRODUCTION « TIKTAALIK » – PIERO GILARDI

Interactive Installation

It is September 2004. The palaeontologist Daniel Shubin and his team are on the Canadian island of Ellesmer – 1600 km from the North Pole – searching for fossils of fish which may bear witness to the passage of animal life from the water to terra firma. They end up finding a fish fossil around 375 million years old which around the front fins shows signs a skeletal structure similar to that of terrestrial tetrapods, made up of a shoulder, an arm, a forearm and a wrist. This fish was named Tiktaalik by the local Inuit population and was able to bend itself to raise its head out of the water, the same kind of bending that we perform when doing gymnastics.

This piece seeks to shine the spotlight on the deep interconnectivity uniting us with the animal kingdom despite the diversity resulting from evolution. This notion of union seeks to reinforce ‘mutual aid’ on the basis of ‘biological solidarity’ in the current human diaspora. The interactive experience provided by the work is both a practice of recognition of the otherness of animals and identification based on common biological origins. Making bending movements opposite a simulation of the Tiktaalik, which simultaneously mirrors them based on a robotic system of captors, constitutes an experiment in functional identification with the development of SOI and with the process of identification via hybridisation with otherness.

The motor-perception system set up between the individual and the Tiktaalik, which is busy bending symmetrically, calls to mind the psychological event that the psychodrama playwright Stanislansky – defined as being an ‘coenesthetic engram’ referring to childhood psychodynamic experiences. It is a fact that a child will smile spontaneously as soon as he feels good, and when he is facing an adult who smiles at him, he smiles back having deduced that the adult is experiencing a feeling of well-being similar to his own. This proprioceptive short circuit means that the child can build and interject a model of the adult, as well as at the same time learning about social transactions.