The Orvillecoptor

Here’s the story, from the Guardian:

After his cat Orville died, Dutch artist Bart Jansen decided to give him a new lease of life … by having him stuffed, attaching propellers to him and flying him around as a radio controlled helicopter. He’s now on show at an art festival.

Apparently Orville was hit by a car and killed. After feeling sad for a few days, as he says in a video, the artist arrived at the current idea/use.

Here’s a picture:


For his birthday, Orville will get even bigger propellers.

Please let us know what you think about the project. You might was to distinguish between your initial and your more considered reactions.


This video may help you decide


14 thoughts on “The Orvillecoptor

  1. Ok, I’ll start with my initial reaction: horrified.

    I haven’t managed a considered reaction yet.

  2. I first heard about this a few days ago, so I forget my initial reaction. The one that I’ve had since is that this is neat, and may be as good a way of honouring your cat as any, given certain particular facts that I am in no position to say obtain or not in any situation other than my own. That said, the thought of stuffing either of my own two cats is repugnant, and I’m also distressed by the fact that he’s selling the cat, which seems not at all a good way to treat one’s beloved cat. But the noise of the damn motor means that I didn’t actually hear everything about that sale. Perhaps it was to a charitable institute or something.

  3. I think the idea of honoring is important, and I hope others share some reactions here. My most beloved cat hated being treated as an object, as we put it, and perhaps that is partly behind my reaction.

  4. Yeekers. Honestly, my first reaction was to think of Midler’s “Wind Beneath my Wings” and then somehow RoboCat popped into my mind. I could never even consider doing something like that. Genuine caring for an animal involves a form of mutual socialization that typically results in them caring about you. I don’t see this version of being a “helicopter parent” particularly respectful. Yeah, I know that some animals have munched on their owners in desperation (person dies, animal starves, etc.) But we’re supposed to be the grownups here, as it were.

  5. My initial reaction was complete disgust and horror. This reminds me a bit of the problem of Body Worlds exhibits. A key difference, of course, being that with humans, it’s plausible that consent could be given (although, this may/may not be the case with Body Worlds). There’s something very uncomfortable about it being okay to use a body however you please after the being dies. But in a world where we find it acceptable to needlessly use and abuse animals for our own pleasure and consumption, is this use of an animal’s body any more morally objectionable than bear skin rugs, fur coats, or leather handbags? Perhaps not. Perhaps it is even less morally objectionable since the animal was not killed for this purpose and it’s body was “simply” re-purposed after death. Regardless, it still seems significantly problematic as I can’t help but worry about damage that can be done to a person’s moral character by using, crafting, and contorting the body of a supposedly beloved animal in this way.

  6. My initial reaction is: horrible! My more considered reaction is still the same.
    But I am reminded of the song Belzebuth by Quebec band Les Colocs: it is about a cat named Belzebuth who escapes his bourgeois couple as they talk about having him neutered (asks Belzebuth: was is that a “vet”?). He ends up in an alley way, makes a pass at Elizabeth the cat, gets into a fight and gets killed. For his ninth life he ends up being a bird, flying anywhere he likes…
    Orville here does not even get that much freedom, being controlled remotely… horrible!

  7. First reaction: Cool! Second reaction: Finally, a good use for a cat! (I am not really a cat hater.) Current thoughts: I am not one to judge “art”, but this doesn’t seem like what I consider love of a pet. Artists make a living selling their art, so guess this follows naturally. It is not what I would do.

  8. For what it is worth, votes from correspondents are negative.

    The author has invited the interpretation we’ve given it. I’m wondering if we took a more art-critical approach to it, what would we see. On the model of “Piss Christ,” I suppose we could see it as a criticism of our uses of animals.

    Any thoughts?

  9. I wanted to see it as something like Piss Christ, but I’m having trouble with it (the fact that the artist seemed to think it would honor the cat by doing something on theme with his namesake made me think this wasn’t really meant to be seen that way… And the fact that he’s selling him… And you would think the artist might discuss it in such a way as to let us know…I don’t know.). So my initial reaction was horrified, slightly considered reaction was more neutral, and more considered reaction, back to horrified.

  10. My first reaction was revulsion and horror. The emotional part of my internal reactor hasn’t got past that. Here’s the body of a sentient being you loved (or engaged with in ‘mututal socialisation that typically results in them caring about you’–thanks Alan); I agree with CB in that there’s something very uncomfortable about the manipulation, de/re-formation, and use of that body to create an object which has any use other than memorialisation. Entombment, mummification, even stuffing the cat and making him a statue would be less (though by no means NOT) disturbing. And the propellers! Cats especially so hate to lose control over the ground beneath their feet!

    But it got me thinking about the anthropocentric, and the scientific, double standards of postmortem lives. Necrophilia or the use of human bodies (except for scientific purposes–use of organs, cadavers for study, postmortem exams pertaining to legal questions) are utterly taboo. I do feel we should think about that–since the renaissance we’ve progressively come to regard the increase of scientific knowledge as unquestionably and immeasurably more significant than any other motivation or need–that’s why there are all these conferences on WHY HUMANITIES? Can one imagine the absurdity of a conference titled, WHY SCIENCE? (In fact, please someone have the conference. And invite scientists to justify their existence. True, they’ll immediately cite the cure of AIDS and finding alternative energy sources as the 21st century’s number one priorities, but it would be so much fun to ask them about nuclear weapons and horrific construction equipment that is designed specifically pierce the brain through one’s ears!)

    So I want to bowl over all my emotional reservations and cheer for this exhibit. As long as–like CB said–we feel it’s ok to abuse live animals in the name of science, I see absolutely no logic to objecting here. This artist used a dead animal for creating art. Though I like, once again, CB’s point about the effect such direct, ostentatious objectification of a beloved animal’s remains on the artist. . . But once again, double-stantards. We pose no such objection (or have not for a few centuries) when it comes to science. I’d liek to stop doing that. And since we aren’t going back to being suspicious of Galileo, I say we welcome the Orvillecoptor’s sincere effort to give grief/regret a shape and a form.

  11. Just wanted to add–after seeing the video–he made his cat fly because his 1903 namesake did. That’s emotionally satisfying! Also, I was thinking about Kathryn’s concerns re: selling the Orvillecoptor. How expensive do you reckon the project was? Does anyone have an idea? [Though once agian, the products of one’s scientific/technological endeavours, no matter to what they owe their conception and in whose name they are continued, are almost always financially lucrative, and meant to be…]

  12. I don’t believe he loved his cat. Perhaps it was not even his own cat.

    Shocking the audience is always a good thing for an artist because it creates rumour and makes the prices go up. Wanting to sell the poor cat for a high price, even mentioning it in the video so potential buyers can get their checkbooks out, I bet that this is what he was after.

    Here’s a clip where he does not seem in mourning at all.

    That it is wrong to use animals (by eating them or making clothing etc out of them) is an old message that vegans and vegetarians have been getting out there by refusing to participate in this practise, for years and years, I don’t think a remote controlled flying cat will help get that message across.

  13. Poor cat. And poor all other animals who are raised and killed for our benefit.

  14. Horrified and repulsed at first, then somewhat relieved to see in the video that at least he didn’t make the cat into a _propeller_ (I had imagined a rapidly spinning cat when I first read the story), then back to completely aghast. The artist is not simply objectifying what was once a sentient being, he is turning it into what would be a toy if not for the peculiarity of its construction. (Remote-controlled flying objects are generally considered amusements.) If someone turned their dead spouse into a base for a coffee table, we would likely agree that the emotion involved was not love or honor. (I’m suddenly reminded of all those vintage side tables that have a butler or dog or a person of color holding a tray in perpetuity. The ideal servant–never tires, never complains, has no needs. I always felt uncomfortable about those tables…) The only difference here is that most people still think of pets as Others who are in no way on equal footing with humans–an assumption that deserves scrutiny.

    Urvashi’s “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” comment reminds me of Jane Austen’s Emma reasoning herself out of her more sensitive emotional responses in favor of her socially determined biases–her ability to acknowledge and respect her feelings and those of others is the sign of her growth at the end of the novel (as it is for most of us). Yes, science has been willing to “torture knowledge from nature” (thank you, Francis Bacon), but rather than cave in I would prefer to fight back. I think it telling that many scientists of my acquaintance have to blunt their emotional responses to the animals they use in experiments–when they have to “euthanize” a mouse or rat prior to dissection (usually by cervical dislocation), it is a grim job they clearly have to gird themselves for. One prominent Drosophila geneticist remarked to a goup of colleagues, “I hope god is not a fly, or we’re all in big trouble.” Even when the justification is the greater good of mankind, it still feels wrong, at some deep level, to instrumentalize another creature. I think this is a moral intuition that should be nurtured, not repressed.

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