Art and Science Lectures: Laurel Braitman, Historian. The Zookeeper's Couch

Lecture Tue 14 Sep 2010 6.00PM-8.00PM Kellen Auditorium, Sheila C. Johnson Design Center
Parsons The New School for Design
66 Fifth Avenue at 13th Street, Ground Floor
Free admission
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A new initiative co-organized with the School of Art, Media, and Technology and the Fine Arts Program Parsons, this lecture series captures the increasingly trans-disciplinary nature of scientific, academic, artistic, and cultural practices and, in particular, focuses on the complex cross-disciplinary settings for arts production in contemporary life.

Looking at other animals is, for most humans, a fun thing to do. That is, unless it's depressing. Contemporary zoos go to surprising lengths in order to satiate our desires to see animals that look happy—from spraying Calvin Klein cologne in tiger enclosures (to inspire them to be more active) to giving female gorillas human contraceptives so that they can have the joy of sex without the complication of too many babies. But how do we know if a zoo animal is happy or not? And once we've figured it out, what on earth do we do about it? In this talk, Laurel Braitman explores human understandings of animal happiness and discontent in the context of zoos and aquariums and just what these ideas say about us.

Laurel Braitman's lecture is paired with a talk by artist Nina Katchadourian on September 21, 2010, also focusing on human/animal relationships.
Laurel Braitman, historian and anthropologist of science at MIT, studies the phenomena of mental illness in nonhuman animals. Braitman has worked as a biologist and environmental conservation professional and her interests include not only the shifting relationships between humans and other creatures, but also how understandings of evolutionary relationships and species distinctions change our ideas of ourselves. She received her B.A. in Biology and Writing from Cornell University and is completing her doctorate in MIT's History, Anthropology and Science, Technology and Society Program. Braitman's book on her research, Animal Madness, is forthcoming with Simon and Schuster.