HUMANS & COCKRACHES - UNITE!

In collaboration w/ Fond Worapoj + Yang Xu + Samra Šabanovic

2018 / student organisation

 

HURSA (Humans, Unity and Roaches social club of Aalto University) dreams of a world where humans are connected to all life on earth, voluntarily. To learn to love, and cease to be lonely. To redefine what it means to live on planet Earth. To form new kinship, and thereby stop harmful action against other species and our own. We would like to confront and inspire fellow students to think, wonder and ask questions about possible interspecies relationships because we believe humankind has to find new, closer ways of living with natural ecosystems, organisms in order to have a better understanding of how much we can learn from each other. To archive this we want to approach people with a playful, light attitude since we felt that apocalyptic scenarios and warnings are not helpful to reach peoples understanding, especially when concerning anthropogenic ecosystem disruption.

The student organisation HURSA was founded in order to conduct activist design research. The imaginary organization was advertised throughout the Aalto University campus by using posters for humans in English and posters for cockroaches in Cockroachian. A Facebook event and Instagram account were also used to inform people about the values of HURSA and a sign-up event where anyone could join the membership by filling out a questionnaire. During the sign-up event, people could get to know our organisation better through conversation and a brochure explaining the activities and benefits of such interspecies relationships and the stories of 3 founding members (Aleksi Heino / Toivo / Sammy McFlea)

The event and application provoked questions, talks, arguments. Reflections and dreams were shared on the possibilities and impossibilities of unconventional interspecies companionships.

THE CLUB JOINED:

26 HUMANS

0 COCKROACHES

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Interspecies friendship is a bonding that is formed between animals of different species. The concept of interspecies friendship is that two individuals from different species exist in a relationship where each organism benefits from the activity of the other.  “Mutualism can contribute to the formation of interspecies friendships because it involves a pair of organisms experiencing mutually beneficial exchanges with each other which may lead to a long-lasting bond.

 

Interspecies friendships often form between humans and domesticated animals through mutualism in which the human gains something beneficial from their pet and the pet gains something beneficial from the human. This is often observed in human-canine friendships in which dogs benefit by being cared for and offered love and companionship from humans while humans benefit by receiving companionship, loyalty and love from their dogs.” It is easier to control the domesticated animal than the wild one. And this is also a reason why domesticated animals might seem more attractive in some instances because they are able to follow rules set by human desire. Animals that are controllable become involuntary extensions of civilization.

We need to recognize that in our success in controlling nature, we’ve become alienated from it—which has potentially disastrous consequences as the climate changes.

 

Dating from psychology’s early beginnings, C.G. Jung articulated the negative impact of detachment with nature on the human psyche: “As scientific understanding has grown, so our world has become dehumanized. Man feels himself isolated in the cosmos, because he is no longer involved in nature, and has lost his emotional “unconscious identity” with natural phenomena... His contact with nature has gone, and with it has gone profound emotional energy that this symbolic connection supplied.”

 

We would like to imagine a human-nonhuman relationship where the human has little or no control over the nonhumans actions, choices and vice-versa. We chose the cockroach as a metaphor. Few animals have a worse reputation than the humble cockroach, but it turns out that almost everything we think we know about them is an urban myth. People have a very biased view of the group and we still have not got a clear idea of how big is the role of cockroaches on our planets’ ecosystems.

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“In caves around the world, the ceiling is covered in bats and the floor is a moving mass of cockroaches and bat shit. The roaches are cleaning that up so that the bats can continue to live there without pooping themselves out of house and home.”(Brent Karner, curator of entomology at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum) When our ancient ancestors first upgraded to cave living, the insects might have provided the same service, and perhaps even been tolerated for it. Over time we settled into houses and domesticated a handful of favored animals, the cockroach became an unwelcome guest.

 

It is a wild creature invading our most intimate spaces. At least in the developed world, people prefer coexistence on their own terms. Some cockroach subspecies do live in urban spaces (about 30 out of 4600species) and 5 of these species are commonly considered as pests. However, the urban setting might be the most convenient environment for cockroaches in 320million year history. The house, appartment building, public mall is a perfectly suitable environment for many cockroaches. It is the warmth, shelter and constant food supply that attracts these tiny creatures to live with us. 

“They’ve really figured out how to exploit the opportunities we create, and in doing so, developed behaviours and life histories that prevent us from controlling them,” “In a sense, we loathe that which we foster.” Our very existence enables them to thrive.

 

It is known that Cockroaches have remained present on Earth for more than 320milion years and most likely, they will outlast us, too. They would have never been able to survive 3 mass extincions if they wouldn't have an important role in the ecosystem of planet Earth. Insects represent an estimated eighty per cent of the world’s biodiversity—billions and billions of bugs are busily aerating soil, spreading seeds, pollinating flowers, and recycling organic matter. “If how we feel about roaches affects how we feel about all the rest, perhaps it’s time to stop squishing.”

 

(Nicola Twilley)

 

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