Adam Zaretsky – Animal Enrichment Arts

August 8 – 21

Our major goal is to make art for a non-human audience. Our work is innovative as we intend to improve designs and methods of expressing art for non-humans by ethological, relational, experiential and aesthetic communication with trans-species in captivity. In particular, we are interested in those animals showing signs of behavioural disturbance, cultural alienation and neurotic personality disorders. The reasoning behind this emphasis is that we would like to underscore the similarities, differences, power relations and mutualisms between humans, non-humans and posthumans all read as particular cases of non-humans.

Conceptual Devices:

For free living non-humans

To give captive non-humans control

For other senses, not our own

MAKE devices intended to:

  • Elicit play
  • Simulate control of the environment by the animals
  • Reduce stress
  • Show animal individuality
  • Show animal group dynamics
  • Show animal problem solving
  • Show quality and integrity of animal consciousness
  • Show enrichment of a particular animal personality
  • Elicit sexual exuberance

The impetus of this lab is to insure the safety and emotionally therapeutic value of an enrichment device. By talking through some of our ideas and actions, we focus on the responsibility to research the beings to be enriched, before designing and actuating an enrichment device. We focus on various research methodologies towards comprehending another organism’s priorities, preferences and perceptions. After talking about concepts, we will discuss how our conceptual devices might be received by actual, non-anthropomorphized park beings.

See Below:

Form for Student’s Conceptual Designs, Team with Enrichment Specialists at the Bronx Zoo, 
Animal Enrichment and Art Studio, Creative Design for Animal Intelligence, Adam Zaretsky and 
Kathy High, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Fall 2003

Actual enrichment technology is not very developed as a practice. The concept is new and due to general underfunding, the administration of professional enrichment is usually spare, both technologically and aesthetically. This problem of “what to do” as a body, to a body, for a body and with a body in relation to the world of living beings is meant to be amplified and left hanging as an artistic production for the purpose of conveying a dilemma. [11] It is presumed that the stimulation of debate is based on the opening up of radical de-categorization. The lab is meant as a primer to open up the way we think about the lives of others, leaving those involved with more informed and wider questions than they had before the experience.


There are interdisciplinary possibilities between theoretical animal studies and the two pertinent science based studies of animal needs: ethology and wildlife habitat restoration. Interestingly “wildlife” is all-organismic and inclusive of anything but urban and suburban, non-human, eco-systemic organisms. But in actuality, the concept of wildness can be applied to all living, nesting and nibbling niches, as there is no habitat outside of the wild. And, in ethology, there seems to be a tacit agreement that the study of animal perceptual universe is not limited to animals. In this case, the term animal can include the study of the non-human if you are willing to research their behaviours, personalities and/or cultures.

BIG CAT PIÑATAS: Baked Pig Piñata, Filled with Fresh Dead and Gutted Rabbits and fed to the Siberian Tigers, The Piñatas were paper mache’ (flour water and newspaper over cardboard boxes) sculptures in the form of animals.  These sculptures were then stuffed with safe and animal appropriate meat from the Zoo’s kitchen and then fed to the animals as BIG CAT PIñATAS. All of this was done with the advice of the San Fransisco Zoo Keepers and Animal Care Specialists. No harm was done in to any animals during the Big Cat Piñatas, Art and Biology, Animal Enrichment Class Collaboration Production. In fact Big Cats were Enriched! The Big Cat Piñatas were built as a part of: VivoArts: Art and Biology Studio, C.I.A. – Conceptual Information Arts, San Francisco State University, Taught by Adam Zaretsky with Teaching Assistance from: Julia Reodica + Meredith Evans and cooperative creation by all these artists: Eric Bemberress, Sean Brimer, Arlene Campbell, Carmel Crane, Kristina Hoeh, Yoshi Kawa, Trey Jackson, Josh Lon, Ryan Medel, Mayumi Ota, Michael Rich, Mike Symmetry, Nada, Samuel Tagulao, , Tommy Walker, Zack Wetzel, These documents wouldn’t be possible without the collaborative spirit of openess between San Francisco State University and San Francisco Zoo, 2001, Super Big Thanks to Prof. Steven Wilson, Head of C.I.A., R.I.P. The Zookeepers from the San Francisco Zoo: Eve Lyon and Lori K. and All the Volunteers.

Recent ethological studies have been using a variety of animal behavior analysis techniques to study insects, fungi and cephalopods under the rubric of ethology. Ethologists advise zookeepers on how to keep wild organisms in captivity with the widest breadth of behavioral authenticity available in a “natural” environment. Some ethologists even use animal behavior studies to assess human beings. It is assumed this is to encourage the widest breadth of behavioral authenticity available to humans in a “natural” environment of voluntary subservience, the wilds of domesticity.

BIG CAT PIÑATAS: Robot Cat Piñata, Filled with Fresh Dead and Gutted Rabbits and fed to the
Siberian Tigers, Photo Document: Adam Zaretsky, SFSU/SFZoo.

We can provide space for the large carnivores that Dave Foreman’s book, Rewilding North America: A Vision for Conservation in the 21st Century, refers to as “keystone species” (Foreman 2004: 119). Large and predatory non-human mammals are seen as keystone supports for any ecological renewal of future wildlands due to their sophisticated food chain balancing technics and their role as reminders of the awesomeness of large untamables loose on striated and fecund lines of flight. Continental scale conservation is the enlargement and broadening of all parks and future park planning. The Wildlands Project is being undertaken to connect parks with green corridors internationally across the US-Mexican border and across the US-Canadian border so large carnivores (e.g. wolves, bear, big cats, etc.) can have room for their habitat standards. This insistence on the international element is important for both the organisms who don’t know about mapped inventions of national space divisions and for the global fertile integrity which socially habituated imaginations often disrupt.

Currently in progress, the Wildlands Project is hoping to prevent further mass extinction and stabilize vast tracts of land by re-establishing carnivores to control the food chain. At present mostly gun-toting, human hunters who are left to control deer, moose and other game populations whereas Foreman suggests that this is actually the ecologically sound role we should re-relegate to keystone species. Forman is interested in strictly protected areas with low to no roads and minimal human access which conservation biologists call “core areas” (2004: 169). Resilient diversity spaces should be restored and maintained until the area is able to maintain itself

BIG CAT PIÑATAS: Rat with Cheese Piñata, The Rat with Cheese Piñata was filled with Raw Potted Horse 
Meat Food Product and fed to the Lion, Photo Document: Adam Zaretsky, SFSU/SFZoo.

Contemporary insight into enrichment practice is meant to veer our participants towards a decentering of human exceptionalism. Ranging from captive animals to transgenic experimental organisms to genetically modified human suburbanites… the cyborg, posthuman visionary question is: How can we enrich the lives of organisms living under patent and legally considered mere variables towards efficient industrial productivity? We can see that the decentered debate on design of enrichment devices for non-human alienation should include all Homo sapiens stuck outside or voluntarily resisting mind control states, corporations and NGOs. We are attempting to create enrichment devices that make reference for all human others yoked under the same rubrics of untamed disregard often given to wild animals: non-human, sub-human, prisoner, migrant, poor, insane, unemployed, revolutionary, dumb or just artist. 

Rewilding from the Urban Out meets Feeding War Planes to Animals

Making facsimiles of warplanes out of various edible raw foods and setting up a jungle surveillance system for capturing the footage of wildlife eating the warplanes represents a sort of symbolic magical undoing of the past, present and future of war machine cultural exploits. This is my personal mission for Dinacon and for the animals and all organisms living (AOL). I am willing to coach other people towards a more varied interpretation of the overarching goals.

Portions of this text are quotes or amalgamations from:

Adam Zaretsky. “Animal Enrichment and the The VivoArts School for Transgenic
Aesthetics Ltd
.” Inflexions 7, “Animating Biophilosophy” (March 2014). 218-245.
including the Image and Video Accompaniment and PDF here

Advanced Animal Specific AZA approved Enrichment Learning: The Shape of Enrichment

Recycloom (recycled textile loom)

In early summer 2017, Streetcat ( participated as a node leader for the inaugural Digital Naturalism Conference (or DiNaCon), hosted by Dr. Andrew Quitmeyer and Tasneem Khan in Phuket, Thailand. Streetcat applied her project idea~ the Recycloom ~ in during the call for proposals for DiNaCon in early 2018. Her project idea encompassed building a textile tool that was made from recycled materials and utilized recycled plastics as string for making reused textile objects.

The final design for the loom came from a workshop that Streetcat took in early May 2018 at the Southeastern Fiber Arts Alliance where she built a strap on an inkle loom. The construction of the inkle loom is pretty simple, and Streetcat was able to source all the materials needed to remake it from various places like dumpsters, old woodworking projects, and Home Depot.

Before leaving for Thailand, Streetcat practiced making straps on an inkle loom that she borrowed from SEFAA, made a bunch of plarn, and constructed / deconstructed and packed the recycled loom ~ the Recycloom! ~ for the conference!

At the conference, Streetcat deliriously reconstructed the recycloom right after arriving at the conference from a 27 hour travel period from Atlanta to Phuket. There, she started experimenting with several stringing methods on the recycloom to play around with making straps out of cotton string and plarn. After working through a few projects, she started to teach other conference attendees how to use the loom with showing them: what the heck warp + weft means, how to make a shuttle out of cardboard, how to string the loom with plarn, how to make a patterned strap, and how to start/finish a project.

The loom lived on after DiNaCon by being adopted by Tasneem Khan and the Diva makerspace ship!

Check out more info about the project: