The zoöp concept is the result of a public research trajectory of Het Nieuwe Instituut that had its first phase in the Terraforming Earth workshops in 2018. The question explored there, was how to make the word habitable in the long term for human and nonhuman life. Starting point was that the climate crisis and the simultaneous ecological devastation happening worldwide are the effects of the way in which capitalist economies make the quality of nonhuman as well as most human life radically subordinate to the central aim of profit maximalization.
An important dimension of this question was how to form an image of a society that is shaped according to different principles. Participating ecologists, artists, designers, financial specialists, philosophers and programmers explored constitutional and legal, technological and narrative practices of worldbuilding and also researched how various indigenous cultures operate from different qualities of relations between human and nonhuman life.
The question also had to be made practical and tangible. How to begin in the here and now with realising a different kind of society? It had to be acknowledged that a new beginning somehow has to start from within capitalist systems, as there is no other place to start from.
In this context we studied how in New Zealand legal personhood had been granted to Whanganui River, Mount Taranaki and Te Urewera forest. How was that organised? Could some of that logic be transplanted to the Dutch and be reformulated with Dutch cultural patters as reference frame? This research led to the contours of the first proposal for a co-operative organization in which nonhumans would be represented.
During the multi faceted project Neuhaus Temporary Academy for more-then-human knowledge of Het Nieuwe Instituut in 2019 we organized a second series of research sessions. A largely new group of ecologists, legal experts, artists and designers hammered out the aims, organisational format, the legal dimensions and the kind of necessary knowledge that would support what was by then labelled as ‘a zoöp’. The concept found its current form in september 2019.
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Image: Patricia de Ruiter, mediakaal.nl