Ruth Burke

performance (video/photo documentation)

How do we understand and relate to livestock that are typically considered commonplace, ordinary, or, “quiet (bearing the marks of the care of generations)”, as described by scholar Donna Haraway? Haraway also states, “to be kin…is to be responsible to and for each other, human and not.” Humanity is indebted to cows as we have truly experienced a “becoming with” this separate species. We exercise various degrees of care for each other while the cow continues to be an all-encompassing symbol of the benefits humans can reap from nature when it’s domesticated. Cows are an intrinsic part of what it means to be human.

My interest in working with cows stems from a profound emotional connection and engaged empathy with these sentient beings. I found my place, my home, and my chosen family at the barn. Working with livestock is a special experience where you’re expected to work hard, to adopt a physical proximity to animals and literally get dirty. This practice, like art, transcends spoken language. It’s intuition. It’s an acute way of “paying attention to” the world around you.