Dorothea Rust, L’animoteur 5 + 6 — selfie or I am donkey, 2018. Performance / Intervention at the Center for Contemporary Art Ancient Bath, in the public-space in Plovdiv, Bulgaria and at SKLAD, in the context of Digital Ecologies 2018-2019: a project in two foldsFold I, 2018. Operaismo Naturale: Ecology of the Event. Selfie: Dorothea Rust

L’animoteur 9 — selfie or I am donkey and cacti

2019. Performative intervention at the opening

L’animoteur 8 — selfie or I am donkey, continued

2019. Performative intervention at the symposium

Since 2015 I have been dealing in performances and interventions with the donkey. In these projects I look into the blurring-lines between human and animal and other beings. The titles of these works are referring to Derrida’s speech/discourse «l’animal que donc je suis» («Das Tier, das ich also bin», «The Animal That Therefore I Am»). [1] In this speech Derrida uses the portmanteau word «l’animot»: The violence that is done to the animal begins with the pseudo-concept «the animal», this word used in the singular, as if all animals, from earthworms to chimpanzees, formed a homogeneous whole, to which «man» was radically opposed. As if in an answer to this violence Derrida would use this portmanteau-word «l'animot». It is said that the french philosopher and writer Hélène Cixous had been using «L’animot» for the first time in 1976. This neologisme, this word which can’t be translated is for Cixous a word animal. [2]

I use Jacques Derrida’s and Hélène Cixous’ portemanteau in the title L’animoteur. The title is a portemanteau again, diverting aspects of the climate that a (performative) situation can bring about:

L’âne is the french word for donkey. In these performances and installations I open a somatic knowledge field about the donkey with speech, movement-gestures, action. The donkey is not a metaphor, the donkey is a laughing one with big ears, and as such not naturalistic but a vector.

L’animateur is the french word for a person who works as an animator in social-cultural contextes and also as a creator of animated films. Last but not least in l’animoteur is also the word moteur which is the french word for motor. The performative situation takes on the function of an animator and as such is a motor for its climate.

Because of my curiosity on the subject of the donkey I get in touch with people, hearing facts and stories and learning more about the different eco-nomical-logical and cultural values of donkeys in different areas (in the world): In 2018 I did the performance and intervention L’animoteur 5 + 6 — selfie or I am donkey at Digital Ecologies 2018, Fold I, 2018. Operaismo Naturale: Ecology of the Event. I started with a performance in the Ancient Bath followed by an intervention in public space, getting in contact with passers-by, asking them questions about their relationship to donkeys and making (if allowed) selfies with them.

The latest encounters with donkeys and a resulting performance have happened last December in Argentina: Up North, in La Puna, in the Andes between 2'500 and 4'000 m I have not only met a lot of half wild donkeys but also aborigen [3] people and cacti. I interviewed two people living in pueblos, asking them about the relationship of the people here to donkeys. With help I transcribed the interviews in Spanish.

Dorothea Rust, L’animoteur 7 — mujeres Y burros Y plantas Y arboles Y plastico Y pimenton Y cactus Y vocabulario Y termino Y lenguaje Y palabra Y non-tango Y esta lana se llama lana de llama, 2018. On the occasion of the residency project Doce en diciembre by Andrea Saemann at URRA Tigre Buenos Aires, performance in the garden of PROA21 (art-space), La Boca – Caba, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Photo: Marianela Depetro

These experiences and other facts and stories, which I have picked up will meet up with cacti and merge into this new performance/intervention in Plovdiv. I extend Derrida's «The animal that I am» to «The plant that I am»: I become something with pointed ears and prickly things and more ... This animal and this plant are resistant in character, they need little resources and can survive in dry and stony terrain, are fit to move and withstand in these extreme conditions. Donkey and cacti are oblique in the landscape and could be seen as ecological beings referring to the queer.

Whether and how I can stand up for the queer in and between people, animals, other beings and plants is as open as what will happen in the performance/intervention in Plovdiv. I will follow a script template with text. Both depend on environment and its context.


[1] refers to Jacques Derrida's 10-hour speech in 1997 on the autobiographical animal, transcribed retrospectively.

[2] Notes from the supplement of the publishers (p. 62) «Hélène Cixous. Gespräch mit dem Esel. Blind schreiben.» with two supplements. Published by Esther Hutfless & Elisabeth Schäfer in German, Zaglossus e. U., Wien 2017.

[3] The people living in the pueblos in the region of Puna call themselbes ‚aborigen’.

Dorothea Rust, eyjafjallajökull, exercise no. 9, 2018/2019. Photo: Dorothea Rust & Arnold Häni


2018/2019. Video performance work

initial situation

Iceland is surrounded by a large sea and exposed to wind and weather and volcanic activities. But not only the island is exposed to these harsh conditions also people, animals and plants. The landscape changes persistently, being in a constant transformation process. The island is geologically young. When on the way in the most different terrains, it makes you feel that the earth is just emerging under the feet and is boiling in the underground, in the rocky layers. Iceland's crustal landscape creates the impression of untouched nature. At the same time, the island has become a tourist magnet in recent years.

These conditions and contradictions of the island are an impulse to touch its 'skin', its surfaces and to move over  its terrains. Arnold Häni photographs on these exploration trips with the i-Phone when I move randomly around selected places. Some are touristic hotspots. I am not familiar with theses places, I am a tourist myself. Intuitively and instinctively I wander through areas diving into the topologies of abandoned places and impressive spots of natural scenes. We photograph when other people are absent.

Dorothea Rust, eyjafjallajökull, exercise no. 9, 2018/2019. Photo: Dorothea Rust & Arnold Häni

movement / choreography

The postures and movements are peripheral and random, yet arising from an extremely attentive bearing. I trust in unconscious, non-cognitive levels. (In-) directly I react to incidences of light, sounds and unevenness of the terrain. Animal-like instinctive sensory states occur, determining the movement vocabulary: fleeing, smelling, sneaking up, playing, hiding, hunting, waving, swaying and swinging.

My wearing is a camouflage outfit:  light brown trousers and a dark brown rain jacket, hood pulled over the head, underneath a blue-grey fleece jacket and wooly cap. Neither a certain person nor a specific gender should be recognizable.

The changing landscapes and terrain are the protagonists. The camouflaged individual serves as a vector directing the angle of sight in the vast and unfamiliar landscape.

photo and video project

Arnold Häni shoots many pictures of my movement explorations. As he can’t anticipate in which mode I will be moving, whether contemplative or unpredictable and curiously bumpy, he has to react directly and shoot in quick succession. Thus he has only limited control over the pictures. We agree that he is choosing width, distance and angle of the photographs and also never photographs me from the front and not in direct alignment, always standing at an angle to me.

Later I put all photos into a sequence and transpose them to a film. While showing to Unnur s. Mjöll Leifsdóttir, artist and employee at the Hafnarfjördur Center for Culture and Fine Arts, I ask her to tell me afterwards, first in Icelandic and then in English, what the pictures evoke in her, what memories of places and spaces they trigger. I record both comments with an audio device. Together with other sounds her voices will follow the images in a polyphonic composed audio-track.


Born in Zug, Dorothea Rust is a visual artist living in Zurich. She is also a cultural theoretician and received her MAS in cultural/gender studies at the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK). Rust’s background in (postmodern) dance includes collaborations with dancers, choreographers and musicians in New York in the 1980s, when the experimental spirit of the Judson Dance Group of the 1960s was still vivid. These experiences have influenced her work up until today. She is also trained in the Alexander Technique (since 1997).

Between 1986 to 1999 touring as a dance performer internationally, hence since more than 30 years movement-space (kinestetic learning/experiencing) a key approach in her work and diverse activities: Peformances and interventions in public spaces, art-exhibitions, lecture-performance in art and music-events. Member on programming boards of performance events in Switzerland and India, co-initiator of THE LONGEST DAY – 16 hours nonstop outdoor performances in Zurich (founded in 2004, since 2014 co-curated with Irene Müller Zürich) and networking with LUPE Zurich, PANCH Performance Art Network Switzerland and others. Writing texts about and to Performance (and) Art. Independent teaching practice (movement classes and somatic body-learning, Alexander Technique), workshops and guest-lecturer at Art Schools in Switzerland and abroad (currently École Cantonale d’Art du Valais ECAV Sierre). Awards, grants and residencies.