The Understanding
Single-channel video, 05:30 min, DV-PAL, 2007

“There is no assured happy or unhappy ending — socially, ecologically, or scientifically. There is only the chance for getting on together with some grace.”
- Donna J. Haraway

The Understanding features an elephant being showered, chained in captivity. It reveals the ambiguous relationship between the elephant and the keeper, and makes the spectator hesitate whether it’s built on trust, or maintained by manipulation and power structures. It’s obvious that the elephant enjoys the kind treatment, but is nevertheless placed there without her consent.

I am interested in what happens when representatives of different species come together. When human and animal meet in modern society, it initiates the possibility of other ways of thinking, like regarding the animal as an equal being without humanizing it. This may enable us to form new experiences regarding something not human, and lay the foundations for an understanding of other and alternate worlds.

The Understanding was part of the touring programme NORWAY curated by Line Halvorsen, and is consisting of works by Norwegian film and video artists. The Understanding was also exhibited at Høstutstillingen 2008.

Script, camera, directing and editing: Siri Ekker Svendsen
Sound design: Gisle Martens Meyer
Production stills and assistance: Tonje Li

Thanks to N´Yoka, and the elephant keepers Karin and Markus at Borås Zoo, Sweden.

Produced with support from Billedkunstnernes Vederlagsfond.