Cord Riechelmann - Some remarks on the aesthetics of being alive

Jacques Derrida impressively described this situation in a lecture he gave in 1997
titled “The Animal That Therefore I Am”. The idea, on which his ex-curse was based,
came to him when his cat watched him step out of his shower naked. At that moment,
Derrida was flled with sudden shame at two different levels. Because cats – like all
animals – have no conception of nudity, there could be no direct relationship
between the cat’s glance and his shame. The shame was ultimately evoked by our
imperialistic anthropocentrism toward animals. A claim, whose signifcance suddenly
withered under the glance of the cat. At that moment, Derrida understood that no
matter how well-meaning our intention is to take the view of the other, it will always
be superfcial and ultimately misconstrued. He realised that we should not try to give
a cat language, which we can somehow translate into something understandable.
Instead we should aim to create a space in our minds for the very individual,
untranslatable meaning of the cat’s glance.
Cord Riechelmann, who was born in Celle in 1960, studied biology and philosophy at the FU Berlin. He
was a lecturer in the social behaviour of primates and the history of biological research. He also
worked as a columnist and urban nature reporter for the Berlin pages of the Frankfurter Allgemeine
Zeitung. He writes for various newspapers including the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, the
Süddeutsche Zeitung, Merkur, taz and jungle world. He is the author of the books Bestiarium (2003)
and Wilde Tiere in der Großstadt (Wild Animals in the City) (2004), editor of a collection of voices of
animals in Europe, Asia and Africa and three CDs with kein und aber (2009). Soon his essay on the
forest will be published by Merve. Together with Marcel Schwierin, he curated the special programme
“Cinema of the Animals” at the 2011 Oberhausen Short Film Festival. In 2013, his volume Krähen
(Crows) was published as part of the nature study series by Matthes and Seitz. He is presently lecturer
in general studies at the Berlin University of the Arts.

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