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GoatMan (2016) – Soul


Thwaites, T. (2016) GoatMan: How I Took a Holiday from Being Human New York: Princeton Architectural Press

Goat Man is a design project, and accompanying book by designer Thomas Thwaites. The project gained funding from the Wellcome Trust and uses design as a process to bring the designer closer to another species. The project is broken down into sections in the published book; Soul, Mind, Body, Guts, and Goat Life. As an important piece of speculative design on becoming animal this will be a recurring comparison  for the study. I will focus on the chapter discussing the Soul in this post but will expand the summary of research in further posts to reflect on the methodology, scope and focus of the project.

Thwaite’s project aims at designing a method for taking a holiday from being human (in his own words), and creates a series of devices and interventions to augment or adapt the body to experience goatness. The writing throughout the published book is a designers narrative reflection on the process, written as a monologue and in a casual and approachable style which may be important to consider when writing about the design process and reflecting on the learning that has taken place through the design and development phases of the project work.

Thwaites documents a journey to find a spirit animal, as the original proposal was to experience elephantness for practical reasons. After visiting a neo-shaman and undertaking workshops and discussions on different cultures relationship with non-human animals, Thwaites settles on a goat. What is maybe important here is the cultural relationship and interpretation of animality. Thwaites looks outside of western culture to understand a wider view of the animal and the process of becoming, and becoming with animals. I think that there are clear, underlying links between Thwaite’s work and Harroways in both the Cyborg Manifesto and When Species Meet. There are clear links between Harroways early works and shamanism that i think may be under theorised and under-investigated in her understanding of the body and personhood. The chapter reflects on the process of Journeying and working with and through other species creating inbetweeness and also explores the paradoxes in the dichotomy between animal and technology;

“Before i leave Annette’s cabin to go and teach my master class, she has a final word on my project. She advises me to try to go further into ‘this mystical, spiritual process of hnouring the animal and calling for its spirit.’ She’s sure, however, that in the end I’ll have ‘to peel off the mysticality of it’ because, she thinks, what I’ve set out to do, trying to use technology to get closer to nature, is a paradox.” (p44)


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