Tag Archives: humans as meat

Mini-Game Explores Meat Production from New Point of View

Alexey Botkov, a game creator who is part of the Frogshark game studio in Auckland, New Zealand, recently participated in a Ludum Dare competition (a “game jam”) in which game designers, working alone, had only 48 hours to create a video game.  The theme: “You are the monster.

Many competitors took a literal view of the theme, creating games wherein the player controls a traditional, Godzilla-like monster.  Botkov took a different tack: “I wanted the theme to carry a self-reflective quality for the player instead of a literal representation in the game.”

In That Cow Game (downloadable for free for Windows and OSX here), the player plays a pixelated cow, who wanders among the whirring, clanking machines of an equally pixelated slaughterhouse.  The difference here is that the cow is the factory foreman, and the infinite line of processed carcasses are all human.

Created in just 48 hours, the game is, by necessity, minimalist: the graphics are simple and blocky, and there isn’t any actual goal.  This arguably makes the game experience even more haunting and thought-provoking.  A reviewer from Popular Science noted, “As the cow (the main character), you’re really only tasked with walking back and forth along the assembly line for as long as it takes you to realize there’s nothing you can do to affect the process. Whether that moment was intentional or not, it left an unsettling feeling hanging in the air. I kept wondering: Was there something I can do? Am I missing something to stop this?”

Image source: nomand

Image source: nomand

The player’s only source of interaction with unfolding events is an ability to headbutt the human corpses as they roll by.  The carcasses are the only “squishy” looking items in the game, created with a deliberate, visually unique feel to separate them from the rest of the space.  They feel out of place in the huge, industrial factory.  “If I was to add anything it would be sound and a variety of voices coming from the humans as you bump into them,” Botkov says.

The game has only minimal, pixelated gore, and it won’t necessarily turn you vegan — Botkov himself is an omnivore — but it invites thought about the nature of our food production processes.

“I eat meat and I am a monster, really,” he says. “More so because I’m aware of the issues, yet I’m still complicit. I guess [with the game] I’m questioning my own relationship with the whole thing and trying to figure out what my values are.”

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Art: Humans as Meat

Today I encountered for the first time the work of artist Cang Xin.  According to his biography on the Saatchi Gallery, Xin “approaches his work as a means to promote harmonious communication with nature. His works have included bathing with lizards, adorning the clothing of strangers, and prostrating himself on icy glaciers: each act representing a ritual of becoming the other.”

Shamanism series, variation one, by Cang Xin, detail

On the topic of becoming the other I found interesting a small pencil triptych of his entitled the Shamanism Series.  The three images each feature dangling animal carcasses above lovingly rendered, disembodied, animal heads; the carcasses are interspersed with hanging, headless, male human torsos, strung up by one leg as if presented, along with the carcasses of the animals, for sale and consumption.  As you move through the triptych the carcasses do not significantly change in detail, but the heads do.  In the first image the heads are all animal (although there is one human foot present); in the second, there are two adult male heads with eyes closed; and in the third, three infantile human heads stare wide-eyed directly at the viewer.  Over the course of the viewing one is more and more directly confronted with the idea of humans as carcasses, humans as meat, humans as nothing more (or less) than the animals pictured around them.

What interests me most about this series of images is that, in endeavoring to transmit to the viewer the idea of humans as meat, the artist cannot bring himself to actually picture the humans as meat.  The animal carcasses are skinned, gutted, dismembered; the humans are missing only their heads, and occasionally their off legs.  They have not had their internal organs or skin removed; they have not had their hands and feet cut off; they are certainly not shredded like some of the animal parts.  They are not strung up by a hook under the Achilles tendon as are real meat animal carcasses, but instead suspended via ropes around the ankle.  The animals are as meat as it is possible to get; the humans are still very human-shaped.

I’m probably missing some deep symbolism here, and perhaps the art is about something entirely other (try as I might, I cannot find an artist commentary for the images).  Maybe it was just very, very difficult to find artist’s models for gutted human torsos (and that is a good thing).  Maybe properly dressed human carcasses did not look human enough to be identifiable, and did not completely make the artist’s point.  However, it really does interest me that in a series of images seemingly devoted to humans becoming the other, becoming the meat animals we consume, the artist could not quite bring himself to completely depict humans as meat.