"Anthropomorphism in the Anthropocene: Reassembling Wildlife Management Data in Bear 71"

Castellano, Katey | from Multimedia Library Collection:

Castellano, Katey. “Anthropomorphism in the Anthropocene: Reassembling Wildlife Management Data in Bear 71.” Environmental Humanities 10, no. 1 (2018): 171-86. https://doi.org/10.1215/22011919-4385516.

Leanne Allison and Jeremy Mendes’s interactive documentary Bear 71 (2012) depicts the “story of a female grizzly bear monitored by wildlife conservation officers from 2001–2009” in Banff National Park. The film’s visuals are composed of fragments from critter-cam footage, which alternate with a minimalist interface: a grid populated with dots signifying other animals and plants living in Banff. This essay argues that Bear 71 uses two strategies to reframe the data-driven discourse of wildlife management. First, the anthropomorphized narrative of Bear 71 reframes wildlife management data through attentiveness to the experience of a single grizzly bear, which functions as a counterdiscourse to the dominant framing of wildlife data as aggregate information about a species population. Second, the visual strategy of the minimalist interface prompts the viewer/user to navigate within a multispecies grid that gestures toward understanding animal endangerment as a problem not on the level of species but rather within a diverse multispecies assemblage that, crucially, includes humans. Although the eponymous Bear 71 dies, the narrative refuses closure because her daughter and other animals continue to move across the interface after the narrative ends. Bear 71 offers a model of “becoming-with” endangered animals through our attunement to both their singular stories and multispecies assemblages. It further models how the environmental humanities can be employed to rearticulate scientific data as innovative multispecies stories. (Text from author’s abstract)

© Katey Castellano 2018. Environmental Humanities is available online only and is published under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).