by Marta Bogdańska

SHIFTERS project proposes to look for history from animal point of view. Reflecting on this concept, coined by French historian Eric Baratay, I investigate the visual history of animals in wars, animal spies, animal in services like Red Cross or police. It started as an archival research and a collection of articles about animal spies. Suspicious squirrels, spying dolphins, misidentified stork, nuclear lizards, photographer pigeons – all these animals were accused of spying and information about it appeared in mainstream media. I am looking at the human use of animals as soldiers, spies, police, and kamikaze. The images used in this project are the ones circulating on the web, called by Hito Steyerl “weak images”. I am interested as well in analysing the meaning of the term ‘agent’ itself: a spy but as well a subject doing action. Taking into account this interesting twist of animal agency I want to relate the multifaceted history of animals in war to the one of the liberation of animals and animal rights. New technologies will help us know more about animal capacities for sure. The post-human & new materialist theories try to incorporate feelings and experiences of non-human actors into their realm of reflection, and philosophy tries to expand into seeing the Other as not only human. How will it affect human societies and animals themselves? The heart of this project is a 14-chapter artist book of 750 pages, an author vision of history of animals in military, police and in spy programs. The book uses archival & found footage and texts. I created as well a 12-minute video essay, and a series of soundtracks created in participatory way during workshops. The video essay “Shifters” uses different types of materials and narratives: archival footage, films made by artist herself, and recordings that the animals themselves filmed with a tiny HD camera. The flow of images intermingles, intertwines and comments on one another. Special props created for this film were sewn by the artist and her mom: a set of “military bags” resembling the ones used in First and Second World Wars created from contemporary industrial and military fabrics. The footage is accompanied by fragments of contemporary philosophical texts discussing the possible fall of Anthropocene and the need to rethink our relations with other beings. The film exercises an attempt to penetrate the sub consciousness of animals, but also their underestimated their agency, but also to record the failures in these attempts, when animals refuse, rebel, or simply do not pay attention to the bags that have been specially created for them in this project. The film lasts 12 minutes; it is colour with sound. It is in English with Polish subtitles.