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The Invisible Zoo

Der unsichtbare Zoo
by Romuald Karmakar
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On the grounds of Zurich Zoo, workers are transforming the brown earth into a savannah landscape, with concrete baobabs to serve as a feeding system and storage space. A “scenography of the wilderness” is being created here, as art historian Christina Katharina May terms this animal pen designed with an eye for detail, a combination of pared-down architecture and an almost natural appearance – a central component of the zoo’s efforts to make itself invisible. Across the seasons, Romuald Karmakar’s film gives an account of life and work at one of Europe’s leading zoological gardens. The effort that precedes the illusion of invisibility is shown, as is the logistical apparatus that keeps the whole enterprise running. The animals are also shown, which serve as an attraction. By revealing a complex network of economical and ethical questions that shape the zoo, precisely what usually remains invisible, this three-hour film expands what is shown into a reflection on the relationship between humans and animals: a mirroring and a “momentary imaginary relationship” (Sabine Nessel). The portrait of an institution – of modernity, of the present.

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