The Museum of the History of Cattle


06/02 - 09/05 2021

You think that because of your writing you are the author of the world, but you’re wrong. You were just an accident like the rest of us, floating in the sea of time.

History According to Cattle 

Since 2012 the artist Terike Haapoja and the author and playwright Laura Gustafsson have collaborated on artistic projects in the shape of texts, exhibitions, interventions and seminars. Their work aims at lifting our gaze beyond that which we accept as normality. The Museum of the History of Cattle introduces a complex thought process on power, the writing of history, environmental impact and food production. It is an artistic project that is highly topical.

Through their projects, they investigate world history from the animal perspective and give a voice to those who lack it. With thorough research and collaborations, Gustafsson&Haapoja work meticulously, nothing is left to chance. The Museum of the History of Cattle was shown for the first time in Helsinki in 2013. It is about cattle farming – historically and today.

At Kalmar konstmuseum the door on the fourth level leads into the entrance hall of a museum within the museum. The exhibition mimics a traditional ethnographic museum in its architecture and layout, it introduces itself by name, with a reception desk, brochures and information texts on the walls. Perspectives shift and in the shape of the museum the idea of whose voice is heard in the relationship between man and animal is turned on its head.

Through the dramaturgy of the room, cattle history is divided into three periods: The time before history – cattle history before they were domesticised by humans and the time when the old aurochs roamed free. The historical period – roughly estimated to begin about 10 000 years ago, when cattle culture was first intertwined with that of humans. The ahistorical period – overlapping with industrialisation and the time when cattle were alienated from their own culture.

To visit The Museum of the History of Cattle is to be exposed. The animals quietly see right through us. The exhibition is not about cattle, the narrators are cattle recounting how cattle might experience our shared existence, their witnessing of history. Terike and Laura describe how the narrating voice they found is both intelligent, playful and poetic. In the written language, the animals view humans as a very strange, often irrational and inconsequential being.

The exhibition explores the effects of technological innovation, scientific theories and ideologies on the lives of both our species: cattle and human. We get to experience the concepts of time, history and heritage from a different angle. Language and space take us beyond the normative view of society, dominated by humans, and lets us inhabit life as it stands for cattle. We are met by a strong production, full of information and powerful in text, imagery, sound and colour. And that which at first sight might seem obscure becomes clearer given time. Learning a new language is rarely simple.

Sara Hemmingsson, curator