Immediations: The Humanitarian Impulse in Documentary
The Documentary Art of Surrender: Humane-itarian and Posthumanist Encounters with Animals
This chapter critically examines efforts to rehabilitate endangered Asian draft elephants as artists painting self-portraits for sale. The author frames the extension of selfhood to animals as a self-evident gesture of liberation as a “humane-itarian intervention” that combines the rhetorical force of humanitarian reason with the disciplinary logic of humane reform. The chapter examines posthumanist approaches to the animal question that have critiqued the anthropocentrism of humane-itarian ethics, framing these approaches to reflexivity as respectively formal and political. The author argues that Roger Caillois’s account of mimesis as a radically passive mode of existence challenges the underlying interventionist logic of both models of reflexivity. The chapter concludes by exploring the possibilities of mimetic surrender as a radically noninterventionist ethic of mediation, through readings of experiments in which artists surrender media such as video cameras and GPS devices within nonhuman milieus, inviting animals to repurpose them and redefine their meaning.