On the Existence, Disappearance and Saving of the Species
In his video installation, Kracina has "revived" the extinct Tasmanian wolf THYLACINUS CYNOCEPHALUS (by way of editing a 16-second television recording, he virtually prolonged the wolf's life to a few minutes on the monitor), thereby archiving it for future generations of mankind. Of all his works, which almost exclusively deal with problems concerning animals (the extinction, extermination, exploitation, fetishisation, and manipulability of animals), this is the one that urges me most to deal with eco-philosophical questions: in general, we consider the extinction of a biological species something deplorable, but this feeling is far from answering the question why this should be the case.
It is tempting, and also plausible, to start out from
an approach which is only oriented towards man's own interests according
to which other species are seen as instrumental goods which are there
to serve man's interests. From this point of view, it does not seem
to be so tragic altogether if one species becomes extinct while various
others that are "biologically close" to it live on. Furthermore,
given the current state of bio-molecular development, man now even
has the potential to "raise a species from the dead" - be
it in an entirely synthetic way, by means of genetic engineering,
or through the storage of deep-frozen genetic material. The extinction
of a species would therefore not be final in any way.
In his reflections on being, man tends to classify being - not only in relation to himself (in an anthropocentric way), but also in relation to being as such. This necessarily influences the way man acts and deals with being: being (and therefore also the species) is normatively devided into priority levels. This reminds me of Aristotle: in physics, he admittedly orders the types of things being in successive grades, but he also attributes to every type of thing a usefulness of its own, ranging from the biggest to the smallest, from the "highest" to the "lowest" of things. This Aristotelian approach is to be found again in Saint Thomas Aquinas: "Although in absolute terms, an angel is better than a stone, two natures are nevertheless better than just one, and this is why a universe containing angels and other things is better than a universe containing angels only." In this sense, the disappearance of certain animal species is a loss within the "universe according to Aquinas", a deterioration in the world's diversity, and in the diversity of the values of being.
One does not exactly have to be interested in metaphysics to understand what Kracina tells us, among other things, through his longstanding preoccupation with different (extinct, endangered, fetishised, tormented or "just" existing) species of animals: The existential values of the various types of animals are neither to be defined along aesthetic lines (inasmuch as these might e.g. have to do with creating "pleasure" in contemplation, as has been true for some products of art), nor along moral lines (inasmuch as they are directly connected to the evaluation of human actions), nor are they to be seen from a purely pragmatic point of view (inasmuch as they relate to use, consumption or "pleasure"). They concern the pure existence of animal species themselves, not necessarily just the area of human purposes and interests.