Food or Rest

Looking for a visual representation of my feelings of exhaustion, I Googled images of “food or rest.” My first page of results included both images of cows and pigs (being transported to slaughter for 52 hours “without food or rest”) and of a female android named Aiko. “She doesn’t need holidays, food or rest and she will work almost 24-hours a day. She is the perfect woman,” said her creator, Le Trung.

My search results brought me this telling illustration of why my next book project juxtaposes animals and automatons to explore what we learn about inequity and rank injustice. Which bodies are marked as requiring neither food or rest—two basic elements without which one cannot survive? And how are these determinations dependent on gender and class? 

“I clean morning, noon, and night! I’m so happy!”

Of course, I don’t meant to suggest that Aiko’s troubles, whatsoever they may be, can compare to the plight of the millions of animals inhumanely transported and slaughtered for humanity’s endless needs. Whatever happened to the Twenty-Eight Hour Law, our country’s first federal regulation explicitly protecting animals from cruel treatment? I’m not sure how the 52 hours cited above were calculated, but there are extensions—either “accidental or unavoidable causes” or quite simply because the owner requested an extension in writing.  


Morris Museum’s Guinness Collection of Automata

Today I had the great pleasure of returning to the Morris Museum (Morristown, NJ, about an hour’s drive from NYC) where the generous Murtogh D. Guinness (yes, of stout beer fame) deposited his great collection of automata—mechanical animals, human figures, and an amazing array of music players. No photos are allowed, but this link here takes you to some of the highlights of the collection. 

They have a “walking” elephant, crocodile, peacock…. and various “monkey” aristocrats in decadent human clothing doing silly human things.

My favorite is the piece where a 2’ long figure of a repined Cleopatra dies by poison snake—over and over, bosom heaving. It really makes you think: who wants to see that over and over again? Cleopatra’s not-so-petite morte, over and over? (The automatons are not rigged to “go,” but they are still functional and have been DVD’d in action.)

If you’re in the area, it’s absolutely worth going! 

Morris Museum’s Guinness Collection of Automata