the Octopus experience

The alien appearance of octopuses has intrigued and troubled humans throughout history and across cultures, from ancient Greece to modern Hollywood. In recent years, octopuses have been receiving increased attention in the context of studies on consciousness due to their intelligence, distinct individual personalities and inquisitive character, as well as in medical research for the self-regenerative capacities of their physiology. We are aiming to contribute new ways of understanding and conceptualizing the octopus to these efforts, both in respect to its being-in-the-world and our perception of it, as well as to challenge and disturb our own ways of perceiving our environment.

The octopus thus becomes a lens for us to reevaluate our own relationship to the other, in relation to the creature as well as through the creature to our wider environment. We are calling upon the octopus accordingly as a case study for the challenges of how we might relate to a nonhuman other, proposing that art, philosophy and aesthetics play a crucial role aside science to negotiate the difficult environmentally catastrophic territory every species finds itself confronted with today.

Influenced by recent suggestions that the octopus is an alternative evolutionary route to consciousness from humans, our guiding principle is to consider octopuses as subjects in their own rights while disrupting, and breaking up human-centered concepts of subjectivity. Thereby, we want to both probe the potential contribution of the arts to an interdisciplinary knowledge space as well as open up new, strange and unexpected perspectives on the octopus, inspired by its long and ambiguous presence in storytelling in the arts and cultural history. In developing new ways of storytelling in collaboration with octopuses, we thus hope to open up new responses to our environmentally troubled times.

The exhibition aims to make an innovative contribution to these explorations of the octopus by approaching the animal through the lens of the creative arts, thereby continuing the cultural historical interest in the animal while pairing it with contemporary insights. We hope to not only contribute new approaches to studying animals, but also to test the boundaries of curatorial practices by exploring the process of curatorial and artistic production as a collaborative research approach and process in itself. The octopus serves in this as both primary subject-matter and model for interdisciplinary research, capturing and at the same time exploiting the alien complexity and plasticity of the organism and its form in manifold ways.