28.11.2019, The Grant Museum of Zoology, UCL, 6-9pm.
We would like to announce that the Beastly Pyramids event on 28 November has been cancelled due to the UCU - University and College Union strike being held at UCL at this time (25 November-4 December). As UCU members we will be taking part in the strike. We hope to pick up on many of the themes raised in this event later in the academic year - more details TBA.
Bruce Nauman, Animal Pyramids, 1989.
Reflections on hierarchy, power and animality in the Museum.
Confirmed participants: Agnieszka Kurant, Bryony May Dunne, Alena Ledeneva
How is hierarchy (political, economic, racial, sexual, inter-species) represented (and denied): in the city, in art, in architecture and in the Museum?
For human beings, pyramids are blatant representations of hierarchy (and of death, inheritance, violence, money as well as the cosmos).
Pyramids reproduce and consolidate inequality and oppression; but they also provoke reflection, resistance and rebellion. For termites, on the other hand, pyramids are emblems of collaborative endeavour (although for moles, they are the debris of a much more individualistic act of burrowing).
How do Museums represent, resist (and deny) these hierarchies and pyramids? By "decolonising" a natural history Museum at an elite educational institution in the middle of London - without repatriating its collection, much of it stolen or acquired through looting and other acts of violence - are we actually perverting the Power Vertical? Or are we, in fact, acting like the purveyors of a Ponzi scheme, pretending that the Pyramid does not exist, and thereby making it grow even higher, more violent, and more destructive? Is there a way to “blow up” verticality of the pyramid from the bottom? Or does critique always the solidify the inescapability of its form by cementing the cracks?
The good news is that Pyramid schemes always collapse; the bad news, is that it's always the beasts at the bottom who bear the biggest burden.
Beastly Pyramids will take the form of a heterodox symposium divided into several (condensed and intense) "stor(e)ys".
Each storey will leave time for contributions from the audience, but it will be organised around a lecture/performance by an invited artist; and a corresponding thinkpiece delivered by a scholar or writer.
Beastly Pyramids will reflect on themes of hierarchy, power, politics, economy and sexuality in the interaction between humans, animals and nature; and within the animal world itself. This vortex of interactions has one common central core: the issue of power, control and domination.
This theme relates to both the core themes of Perverting the Power Vertical, our conceptual platform; but also to our theme for 2019-2010, PiraMMMida, which is inspired by the East European pyramid schemes of the 1990s.
1. Architecture: Building Babels and Gizas 🥒
Agnieszka Kurant: 10 mins
2. Mythology: Hunting the Unicorn 🥒
Bryony May Dunne: 10 mins
3. Power: Informality and Animality 🥒
Alena Ledeneva: 10 mins