Microcultural Incidents at 10 Zoos
It is not always the animals that are the most important things about a zoo. In films, the venue for watching animals sometimes becomes the focus of attention itself. Zoos are where animals and humans meet and where the habitat of one species is turned into a display for the others to watch. Or the other way round, such as in Bert Haanstra’s amusing documentary, ZOO, where the gates open to admit visitors who fill the zoo with life while the animals impassively look on at the hustle and bustle. A jaunty jazz score turns a picnic on a bench into feeding time for the humans. In Lászlo Moholy-Nagy’s MoMA-commissioned THE NEW ARCHITECTURE OF THE LONDON ZOO it is the architecture that takes centre stage: curved lines and reinforced steel structures form a whole, relegating people to the sidelines. The programme concludes with Nicolas Philibert’s LA NUIT TOMBE SUR LA MÉNAGERIE: once the last visitors have left following the zookeeper’s whistle, a strange silence descends on the Jardin des Plantes.