What happens when a chimp takes hold of temporality? This question drives the performance art work Santino’s Gift. The project began with Santino the chimpanzee who likes to throw rocks at visitors to the Furuvik Zoo in Sweden. What is strikingly uncommon about Santino is his forethought in collecting the rocks before visitors arrive. The preeminent philosopher Martin Heidegger uses forethought as the scaffolding for explaining human uniqueness in his work Being and Time. Visualizing a future allows humans to plan and build, to make objects function as equipment toward future ends, and to fashion technology.
In response to the chimp’s rupturing human preeminence, scientists studied and reported on the his ability while the zoo keepers castrated Santino as a mode of control over his behavior and future plans. Santino’s Gift is an art project designed to give Santino a present which he can make use of while in confinement and down on his luck. In Santino’s Gift Assistant Professor of English Ron Broglio spent part of an afternoon wrapping a copy of Being and Time and fitting it into a hand-crafted wooden box. The present along with an accompanying letter have been mailed to Santino care of the Furuvik Zoo. Broglio is awaiting a response and hopes Santino likes the work.
Visitors can see select photographs and artifacts from the performance of Santino’s Gift on display at Arizona State University’s Institute for Humanities Research exhibition Human Origins. Artwork of the exhibition will be on display in the IHR (Social Sciences Conference Room 109), ASU Hayden Library (Lower Concourse) and GIOS (Sustainability Building) from January 28 to May 3, 2011.
Ron Broglio is an assistant professor in the Department of English and senior scholar at the Institute for Sustainability at Arizona State University.