Expect to survive
Gustafsson&Haapojan Waiting Room -ääni-installaation käsiohjelmassa julkaistu teksti.
The title, Waiting Room, is beautiful. Very poetic, dramatic in a wistful way. Yet it feels false, disloyal. It opens the door for symbolic interpretation, and distracts the audience from grasping the materiality of the work. The lives and deaths behind the voices.
The pigs are not symbols. They are not waiting. They may be terrified by the smells of the space, but they do not expect to have their lives brutally ended, or at least are prepared to put up a fight. It is not a waiting room for them, it’s one of the production facilities they live their lives in. They expect to survive. We the artists, the title-givers, know what will happen, the exact moment of their death, and after that moment, we go on with our lives.
The relationship feels exploitative. We must co-operate with people who own the slaughterhouse and work there (often the same person given that our requests were ignored by all the bigger corporations). We must understand that they are not the enemy, they try to make their living. Not to see them as killers. It is what they do, not what they are. We empathize with them.
Whose side are we on?
Since childhood it has been my dream to rescue animals from being murdered. A dream and a nightmare – an endless task, truck load after truck load, billions and billions of lives defined as ”livestock”. How could I ever decide who gets to live. It’d have to be all of them. All or none at all.
Yet they are individuals, each one of them. Their individual life has an immeasurable value to themself. Twenty-four non-waiting individuals in this specific place on that specific night. To have been able to save even one of them.
I didn’t want to see the slaughterhouse, speak to the manager, nor be there during the recording. The fact that there’s nothing I could have done is too agonizing for me. But regardless of my agony or the lack of it, they live and die. It happens beyond my sight, all the time. If I don’t rise up, does it mean I approve?
On highways, it pains me to see the trucks transporting live animals. Their worried, curious, anxious noses peeping from the ventilation openings. Why am I happier when the vehicle is empty? Do I want to believe nothing happened – that the infantile drawing of a smiling and dancing pig on the side of the truck is not a cruel joke.
To see is to witness. Witnessing is incriminating, it forces me to participate in. It turns me into an accomplice. I don’t want to see but I can’t unsee. That is the liminal space where haunting takes place.