S’il n’existoit point d’animaux, la nature de l’homme serait encore plus incomprehensible.

{If animals did not exist, the nature of man would be even more incomprehensible.}

- Georges-Louis Buffon

The Project

CAPTIVECAM deals with animals kept in captivity under the guise of conservation efforts and public education while myriad related incidents and issues point to a corporate-industrial nexus set on profiting at the expense of these creatures.

Millions of dollars spent toward creating animal enclosures would have been better used on conservation efforts in the natural habitats of these species. Taking animals out of the wild results in reduced genetic diversity and increased difficulty in finding mates. Yes, zoos breed offsprings as they rake in more money but in doing so, they create a surplus of animals that eventually end up being slaughtered or sold to other zoos or circuses. Disguised as conservation efforts, these are economic transactions trading in the wild lives of innocent others.

The project started out as a foucauldian post-internet study of Virtual Panopticons. It initially collected screenshots of live surveillance feeds of animals in zoos, mostly from the developed world.  The project has since evolved to include a more elaborate study of surveillance, prison systems and apparatus, as well as psychosis, seen in the lives of captive animals as well as the interactions that human beings have with them.

On a deeper level, through a systematic and technologically innovative study of how human beings interact with, imprison and subjugate animals, CAPTIVECAM intends to provide an insight into the workings of the human psyche, while exploring ideas of the place and role of humans and animals in contemporary times.

This is a unique project in the sense that it is still a local project since the physical images have been taken in south Asia. However with the use of new technologies, apps and media, the project explores a vast expanse spanning continents through the use of live surveillance feeds. It is hence an innovative experimental local-global project that incorporates still images, time-lapses, boomerangs and screenshots to provide a new narrative experience.

While the photography and videography focuses on Asia, where much of the animal trade is based, the screenshot chapter looks at north America and Europe, regions that have sufficient funds and organizational capacities to host live-cams. Hence the project also ends up being a commentary on how economic disparities between the developing and developed world can lead to variations in possibilities of visual representation.

The Structure

CAPTIVECAM as a project currently lives on Instagram, where it has been given the form of an evolving digital photo-book divided into eight chapters, through an elaborate use of hashtags with the aim of providing a new conceptually driven storytelling experience:

#captivecamimages- images of animals in captive environments in zoos and otherwise, taken via smartphone and camera.

#captivecamapparatus- an exploration of the machinations employed to ensure captivity of animals.

#captivecamboomerang- animal-man interactions seen through Instagram boomerangs. Boomerangs enable a most effective way of highlighting pertinent intense interactions between man and the captive animal, repeated ad infinitum via the loop structure.

#captivecamtimelapse- repetitive locomotion stereotype, an outcome of prolonged captivity, is a psychological disorder observed in animals in zoo enclosures. Timelapse is a most effective way to highlight the psychotic nature of captivity in animals.

#captivecamsurveillance- this is the originiary Captivecam project. It comprises screenshots created using the particular vantage point of the live-cam, made available to the public via internet by several zoological institutions all over the world. These live-cams permit dedicated, round-the-clock access to the captive animals, allowing viewers into the innermost chambers of the enclosures - areas that are impossible to visit during a physical trip to the zoo. A look at the internet pages of these live-cams will show that their main purpose is to generate revenue through various sponsorship schemes and funding possibilities. But the positioning of the cameras is starkly reminiscent of surveillance techniques used by institutions and governments on civilians. Looking long enough, one begins to observe various psychological manifestations of captivity including repetitive behaviour, stress and boredom. The live-cam feeds also permit the observation of human-animal interactions in zoos from hitherto unseen vantage points, mostly from within the enclosures looking out. Following CYBERSEX  and CROSSINGS , this chapter forms the third installment in a foucauldian trilogy exploring the role of the Internet as a global and virtual panopticon.

#captivecamwords- a chapter on passages/texts/quotes on animals/ferality that inspire this work.

#captivecamaterlife- a chapter exploring how animals live on amongst humans ager their demise.

#captivecamcrossover- a chapter comprising pertinent images from my other projects.


scroll magazine