At Christmas, when we commemorate the birth of Jesus, it gets busy around the puppy mill because new litters arrive, timed to meet the needs of people at the end of the year. At the same time, aged dogs that have been a long-time breeding are sent away or enter an uncanny place. That will be their last image. Someone has seen this dog, as another person swipes a cute puppy in a Santa costume image on their internet screen.
The dog, established as a human companion for a long time, is an icon in our society. Words springing to mind include loyalty, brightness, cute, trust, pet, welcome, and even love. According to this icon, the dog has been repeatedly reproduced, figuratively and literally, in our history. Since the word history usually signals something in a larger context, it is bound to blur around the edges. Some of this blurriness is related to the birth and disappearance of dogs. As companion animals have spread widely in society, anything dog—related has become big business—including the dogs. At the same time, at the bottom of this business’s mechanism, there are stories of dogs who deviate from the ideal image of being young and cute and thus suffer their owner’s indifference. Disappearance enabled the business mechanism that led to birth all the way.
There will be no stopping this business mechanism. Instead, the exhibition The Mind of God and Dog blurs history itself and reconstructs it into a fictional form, allowing us to face the dog that has been missing from the history books. Everywhere there is a dog´s face. And we ask, how many times have we looked at this face with direct eye contact.
According to Levinas, the face is “not seen, nor is it an object. Appearance (apparaître) is maintained with some externality and is a call, or command, placed on your responsibility. He mentioned that to be face—to—face is to immediately understand these demands and orders.”¹ In other words, since the command underlying this face belongs to the demands of responsibility on my part, the beholder who looks at the face in a relationship cannot easily end up with the other. A specific responsibility that cannot be exhausted resides within the face. This means that the face becomes the place where the word of God is. Thus, we always see God in the faces of others.²
The face of others that God can find is not just human. In this way, this exhibition realises the fictionalised dog as a god while paying attention to the blurry periphery of history. It is an icon of the dog business mechanism, but it is also an icon that remains in our notion on the internet. How should we face the face of the other who deflects the icon? What is an inexhaustible responsibility? In response, we bring stories to this exhibition caught in the gap between fiction and non-fiction history.
Theresa thought about her dog, Karenin, on the brink of death. “It is love without interest. Theresa wants nothing from Karenin. She doesn’t even force love. … She raised a dog not to change the dog, but just to teach her the basic language so that he could communicate and live together.”³
And, at Levinas’ funeral, Derrida’s reading began like this. “For a long time, for a very long time, I’ve feared having to say Adieu to Emmanuel Levinas. … this word a-Dieu [To à the God Dieu-], which, in a certain sense, I get from him, a word that he will have taught me to think or to pronounce otherwise.⁴
And this exhibition The Mind of God and Dog adds the questions, can we dialogue in their language? In the form of a dog who became a god, and of our life that they see? How is their own life?