Fruit that Falls from a Tree
Video with Audio (English; 2–4 minutes, each)
Fruit that Falls from a Tree is an exploration of orders—cosmological, legal, and practical—that govern our relationships with domestic animals. The videos and texts loosely mimic the structure of Islamic Medieval genres: Cosmographies (eg Al-Qazwini's The Wonders of Creatures and The Marvels of Beings), and Mirrors for Princes with moral parables played out by animals (eg Al-Muqaffa's Kalila wa Dimna). The narrative arch follows animals in astrology, folk tales, bestiaries, civil law, and science fiction. All the domestic animals, domestic objects, scenes, and sounds were recorded or drawn during La Wayaka Current, an artist residency in the Atacama Desert, Chilé in May 2022.
Image Description: A red, fleshy circle resembling the earth sits on top of a black background.
Image Description: A dry arid landscape with a blue sky takes up the entirety of this image. Two small brown dogs stand in front of a brown bush looking at each other. A black and white image floats in the sky above them mirroring their actions.
I had a family
of trees, and another of plants,
and I talked and talked
with the animals I found
A magic bowl was rumoured to have been found across the ocean in another desert. The maker is unknown, the providence is hazy.
Unlike other bowls of its kind, this bowl depicts the figures of the zodiac and planets in the form of domestic animals. These are distinct and well engraved. Both the interior and exterior of the bowls are completely covered with inscriptions and the usual interlocking ornamentations. There are no magic letters or signs, nor does the Most High Name of the Seven Symbols occur on it.
The Planets, al-kawakib al-Sayara, are the figurative representations of the seven planets, arranged in the Ptolemaic order, the Sun being in the middle. The figures are separated from one another by short inscriptions.
The broad face of a Rabbit represents the Moon, al-Qamar. It is covered with a headdress that encloses both sides of the face and forms a knob on the top of the head,
To its left is a Serpent with a stylus in his hand. This is Mercury, 'utarid, in astrology al-Munafiq "the deceitful one."
Then follows a Goat playing on a harp. Her hair is done up in two thick braids. This is Venus, al-Zuhra, in astrology al-sa-ad al-saghir, "the star of little good fortune."
Her neighbour is the Rising Sun, al-Shams, in its house, Manzil. In front of it stands a Rooster.
The Sun is followed by the figure of a Dog holding a staff or lance over his right shoulder. His left hand rests on what appears to be a large jar, but in view of the fact that this is the image of Mars, al-Mirreekh, it is more probably a shield of which the lower part is not visible. This planet exercises a sinister influence and is called in astrology al-nahs al-'asjar, the star of “lesser misfortune " in relation to Saturn, the star of pre-eminently sinister influence, al-nahs al-'akbar.
Upon Mars follows Jupiter, al-Mushtari, an enthroned horse, holding in his left hand what appear to be two sticks laid across one another, perhaps thunderbolts. Jupiter is known in astrology as al-sa’ad al-'akbar wa yadullu 'ala al-salam, the star "of greatest happiness that leads unto peace."
Fruit that falls from a tree onto neighbouring land belongs to the owner of the tree.
Animals are not things.
In the summer, when he went off by himself, he often took
along a dog to keep him company. This was a small yellow mongrel
with a downcast expression; in fact, as Sandro had told me,
acting out in his way the animal episode, as a puppy he had had
a mishap with a cat. He had come too close to a litter of newborn
kittens, the mother cat was miffed and became enraged, and had
begun to hiss, getting all puffed up; but the puppy had not yet
learned the meaning of those signals and remained there like a fool.
The cat had attacked him, chased him, caught him, and scratched
his nose; the dog had been permanently traumatized.
He felt dishonored, and so Sandro had made him a cloth ball,
Explained to him that it was the cat,
and every morning presented it to
him so that he could take his revenge on it for the insult
And regain his canine honor.
For the same therapeutic motive,
Sandro took him to the mountains, so he could have some fun:
he tied him to one end of a rope, tied himself to the other,
Set the dog firmly on a rock ledge, and then climbed up;
when the rope ended, he pulled it up slowly, and the dog had learned to
walk up with his muzzle pointed skywards and his four paws
against the nearly vertical wall of rock,
moaning softly as though he were dreaming.
Image Description: A peach coloured background with cracks of paints on it shows a shadow of a string of light bulbs. One light bulb is visible in the foreground.
Image Description: A bright sun in the sky is visible in the grey, gloomy background. Brown and yellow-ish plants and tree-leaves border the image.
And finally there is Saturn, al-zuhal, having the figure of a camel or a llama with six arms, resembling the many-armed Shiva. He is seated in the manner of a Buddha.
In his upper right hand he holds an object resembling a spearhead or a pointed bud of a flower.
In the corresponding left hand he holds an object of a triangular form with a rounded top.
From his second arm there seems to flow a stream of water, while the hand of the corresponding left arm holds an object of a triangular form on a long stem.
The remaining two arms hold nothing in their hands. The two sets of lower arms are attached to the middle of the body.
The Bowl was decorated with various pictures of herbs, buildings and leaves, also of reptiles, and with figures of birds, wild beasts and forms of old men, young men, women and children and painted inscriptions and rarities of distant countries and joyous instruments of music and rare animals exactly portrayed with different hues, of perfect beauty with limbs firmly jointed: with their mobile faces they seemed to hold secret converse with you and the fruits seemed to approach as though bending to be plucked.
“animal” means any domestic animal or animal kept in captivity and its fertilized eggs and ova - and applies, wherever the context permits, to any part of such an animal;
In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, a person who keeps a medicinal premix or a medicinal food in a quantity that exceeds the needs of his animals or those in his custody, is presumed to intend such product for sale or supply.
With the Crow, for example, we
are given preparations to prevent hair loss and
to dye hair:
One of the uses of the black crow is that if
it is burned and its ashes are kneaded with
olive oil and it is smeared onto an area
from which hair has fallen out it speeds [re]
If a crow is taken
and thrown as it is, alive, into a new vessel
treated with tar and three bowls of vinegar
are poured over it and it is left for some days
until putrid, then taken out and pounded
on a lead pounding block and applied to the
hair, it will turn it black.
Image Description: A two-toned jagged rock sits on a cream coloured background.
Image Description: A shadow of a plant with little leaves is visible on a peach coloured background.
Animals are not humans and are not inanimate objects. Presently, the law has only two clearly separated categories: property or juristic persons.
Our purpose is to shift the nature of the relationship between the owner and the animal from that which is like the ownership of a rock to that which is more like, but not identical to, the custodial relationship of the human parent and the human child.
3 percent of mammals are monogamous. Play teaches animals to handle surprises
Five different brain areas evaluate melody, rhythm, meter, tonality and timbre. Music was the first human language and still is the language of animals and birds. Music predates humanity by 160 million years. The introduction of birdsong brain nodules to the appropriate human brain sites has resulted in aphasia, also, temporal lobe phenomena like omnipresent sublimity, hyper-musicality leading to hyperventilation (whistling or singing)
Human cords were already capable of purring, and it needed only the insertion of feline amygdalan and hippocampal and hypothalamic cells…
The space project accelerated as it was becoming clear the earth was in for a terrible time because of the climate change and the general despoliation of the biosphere. Defenders of the space project always emphasised its humanitarian and environmental value, the ways in which the resources available in the solar system might help Earth limp through its stupendous overshoot. Inhabiting the other bodies of the solar system could be said to conform to a Leopoldian land ethic: “What’s good is what’s good for the land,” because it was going to take stuff from space to save Earth.
The first settlements were on Luna, Mars and the asteroids
The beautiful terraria in their thousands, jewel-filled geodes, spinning like tops, hopped out of pandora’s box, never to be recollected
Where transferred property taken into possession by a transferee is an animal, the transferee, in the best interests of the transferor and taking account of circumstances, may care for it or slaughter it.
The Alicanto is a nocturnal bird that seeks its food in
veins of gold and silver. The variety that feeds on gold
may be identified by the golden light that gleams from its
wings when it runs with them open (for it cannot fly); the
silver-feeding Alicanto is known, as one might expect, by
a silvery light.
The fact that the bird is flightless is not due to its wings,
which are perfectly normal, but to the heavy metallic
meals that weigh down its crop. When hungry it runs
swiftly; when gorged it is hardly able to crawl.
Prospectors or mining engineers believe their fortune is
made if they are lucky enough to have an Alicanto for a
guide, since the bird may lead them to the discovery of
hidden ore. Nevertheless, the prospector should be very
careful, for, if the bird suspects it is being followed, it dims
its light and slips away in the dark. It may also suddenly
change its path and draw its pursuer towards a chasm.
Image Description: Shadowed Trees surround the screen creating a stark contrast between the foliage and the setting or rising sun. The sky in the background fades from yellow to blue grey.
Image Description: Mountains in the foreground are grey and white, A vast landscape with a bright sun appears in the background. A circle is at the centre of the image, changing the grey and white coloured landscape to red of anything it touches.
Most of them accepted namelessness with the perfect indifference with which they had so long accepted and ignored their names
Among the domestic animals, few horses had cared what anybody called them since the failure of Dean Swift’s attempt to name them from their own vocabulary. Cattle, sheep, swine, asses, mules, and goats along with chickens, geese and turkeys all agreed enthusiastically to give their names back to the people to whom - as they put it- they belonged.
A couple of problems did come up with pets. The cats of course, steadfastly denied ever having had any name other than those self-given, unspoken, ineffably personal names. It was with the dogs, and some parrots, lovebirds, ravens, and mynahs, that the trouble arose. These verbally talented individuals insisted that their names were important to them, and flatly refused to part with them. But as soon as they understood that the issue was precisely one of individual choice, and that anybody who wanted to be called Rover, or Froufrou, or Polly, or even Birdie in the personal sense was perfectly free to do so, and not one of then had the least objection to parting with the lowercase generic appellations “poodle,” “parrot,” “dog,” or “bird,” and all the Linnaean qualifiers that had trailed along behind them for two hundred years like tin cans tied to a tail.
The Blind Llama’s Eyes follow your singing voice
Characteristics of the Camel ( fol. 41r/132r)
The Camel is malevolent, extremely spiteful
and bitter. It has a long retentive memory
and forgets nothing. It will look for an
opportunity to be alone with someone who
has beaten or maltreated it to take revenge
on him, and when the chance comes it will
not spare him. It is like a despicable man
who does not spare the other when he gains
the upper hand.
It is said that among all the
beasts of burden it is the one most like Man in character...
Works cited (and sometimes distorted)
Mistral, Gabriela, Poema de Chile - Poem of Chile, 1967
Spoer, Henry H.; “Arabic Magic Medicinal Bowls;” Journal of the American Oriental Society; Sep. 1935
Spoer, Henry H.; “Magic Bowls II: An Astrological Bowl;” Journal of the American Oriental Society; Jun. 1938
Civil Code of Québec
Levi, Primo; “Iron;” The Periodic Table; Einaudi Books; 1975; tr. Rosenthal, Raymond; Schocken Books; 1984
Ibn ‘Arabshah, Ahmad; Tamarlane; or, Timur, the Great Amir, 14th century; trans. J.H. Sanders (London, 1936)
Necipoğlu, Gülru; “The Scrutinizing Gaze in the Aesthetics of Islamic Visual Cultures: Sight, Insight and Desire;” Muqarnas, Vol. 32; 2015
P-42- Animal Health Protection Act - Gouvernement du Québec
“Manafi’ul Ghurāb (Usefulness of the Crow);” Kitāb al-Ḥayawān (Book of the Characteristics of Animals); c. 1200
Contadini, Anna; A World of Beasts: A Thirteenth-Century Illustrated Arabic Book on Animals
(the Kitāb Naʿt al-Ḥayawān) in the Ibn Bakhtīshūʿ Tradition; Brill; 2012
Favre, David; “Equitable Self-Ownership for Animals;” Duke Law Journal; Nov 2000
Robinson, Kim Stanely; 2312; Orbit; 2018
C-53 - Act Respecting Bills of Lading, Receipts and Transfers of Property in Stock - Gouvernement du Québec
Cifuentes, Julio Vicuña; Myths and Superstitions; cited in “Fauna of Chile” in:
Borges, Jorge Luis; The Book of Imaginary Beings; 1967; tr. di Giovanni, Norman Thomas; Penguin; 1974
Le Guin, Ursula K.; “She Unnames Them;” The New Yorker; January 13, 1985
“Na’t al-Jamal, (Characteristics of the Camel);” Kitāb al-Ḥayawān (Book of the Characteristics of Animals); fol. 131-132/ 40-41v; Cat. 60), c. 1200
Al-Qazwini, Zakariya; 'Aja'ib al-Makhluqat wa Ghara'ib al-Mawjudat, (The Wonders of Creatures and the Marvels of Beings); mid 13th century AD
Ibn al-Muqaffa, Abdullah; Kalila wa Dimna; 8th century AD
Carlos, Sandra and their family who hosted us in Coyo in the Atacama Desert, Chile in May 2022.
Paloma, Gabriel, Pamela, Maca, and Gaspar and all the wonderful people at La Wayaka Current, Desert Residency.
Edu (short for Educator), Golden Mongrel, Coyo, Atatcama, Chile.
Lascar, the Blind Llama, Coyo, Atacama, Chile.
Bernie, my Saluki, Toronto.
The dogs, the llamas, the cats, the chickens, the goats, the sheep and all the beautiful domesticated animals I have met in Coyo and beyond.
Thanks to Tyna, Dardi, Anna, Jess, Stuart, Tim, Yixuan, Bicheng, Peter, Cally and Franca.
Produced with support from Bamboat | Mitchell and the Canada Council for the Arts.