Dachshund U.N. – adorable sausage dogs recreate United Nations session

Calling everyone in travelling distance of Birmingham! Artist Bennett Miller is bringing his Dachshund U.N. project to the Fierce Festival for a one off performance outside Ikon gallery on 31 March at 1pm.

Dachshund U.N. (2010) - Bennett Miller

The 45 minute show will see 47 doggy delegates taking up residence in a miniature version of the former U.N. office in Geneva in Oozells Square just outside Ikon.

Speaking about the inspiration, Miller explains that the aim was to recreate the struggle of something difficult and dysfunctional but ultimately worthwhile. The dachshund was chosen for the project for being the only dog breed which contains ‘racial diversity’ in terms of colour and hair length, providing a more realistic parallel with its human counterpart.

Interestingly, despite the obvious political overtones, Miller keeps an eye on the piece to prevent the symbolism becoming too overt or simplistic. In one of the previous performances the dog occupying the China seat was barking non-stop “and that made it too loaded for what we were trying to do so we moved the dogs around.”

Here’s a behind-the-scenes video from 2010:

The Ikon website notes that the piece is “a playful and chaotic experiment; a meditation on the utopian aspirations of the Commission on Human Rights, and our capacity as humans to imagine and achieve a universal system of justice.”

From watching the Melbourne version and hearing Miller talk, I’m not feeling the universal justice aspect at all. It feels more like a meditation on the fact that we are all essentially the same, deep down, and that for the observers outside the U.N. bubble a lot of the fighting and maneouvering is incomprehensible and comical. As a wry observation about human nature, I buy it. As a meditation on the grander aspirations of the Human Rights movement? No. Although please don’t take that as me saying it’s not well worth seeing!

In case you were also wondering, as I was,  about the ethics of using animals in artworks, Miller explains (in relation to the 2010 performance, but I assume it’s similar here) that if the owners feel at any time that their dog is becoming stressed they can immediately remove them for the performance and that there are plenty of substitute doggy delegates ready to swap in.

There’s an piece over on Melbourne Muse which explores the reactions in a bit more depth – well worth a read – and has a quote from one of the dog owners involved:

By no means the dogs were forced to stay up there for the full hour. Yes, it did take about 10 minutes for the dogs to settle, but after that most of them were quite comfortable. Those who could not stay for the whole hour were welcome to leave early. My dog was not traumatised, not abused, not exploited in any way.

There’s also a video of Miller talking about the project on ABC and more footage below:

Dachshund U.N. – Bennett Miller, 1pm-1.45pm on 31 March, outside Ikon Gallery