Horned gods, cat-headed goddesses, shapeshifting witches… The idea of a human–animal chimera has captured the imagination of man through time. The animal in us may be muzzled and hidden in the shadows of our supposed civilization, but still animal is what we are. What then is it that makes us human? What separates us from the other animals – if anything? This relationship between human and animal and the possibilty for a less anthropocentric world is explored in the works of artists Ana Gutieszca and Lora Dimova, who together form the performance and noise duo Humanimal. But what is the energy that passes through them, transforming them into part human, part animal?


In this interview from May 2017, Ana Gutieszca and Lora Dimova of Humanimal discuss the human–animal border or the lack thereof, ancient knowledge and the energy flowing through everything with Sudenmarja.

As the ongoing pandemic situation made many themes discussed in 2017 seem topical, one further question can be found added to the end of this interview.

May 13, 2017, Pispala, Tampere, Finland.

Humanimal is quite obviously a combination of human and animal, but where for you does the human end and animal begin in Humanimal? 

Lora: “For me personally, I really think there is no specific border where the human starts and animal begins, it’s more like mixing those two elements together and creating some form of raw and pure energy. Because if you look at what animal symbolizes or how animal is represented within the human, it’s like a raw energy that goes through us. For me this is something innate that we have inside us. So it’s mixing those two elements together, the human and animal into one.”

Ana: “And there is actually no separation, because animals, we are all animals, we are just part of that one big sphere of animals. I don’t know if you’ve read Derrida, but he said that calling animals with the word “animals” is committing violence to all the different species, because you cannot compare ants with elephants or the birds or – they are very different groups.”


You talked about this raw energy, is it going back to some sort of primitive state or how would you describe that animalistic energy? 

Lora: “I don’t know, I feel that it’s really hard to say if it’s really primitive energy, because if you say it’s primitive energy, then you might get different – when you talk about primitive, what primitive means is different for different people, but usually people take it as something on a lower level, which for me is not the case. It’s more like trying to transcend that, so if you say – I don’t know if I want to say primitive, because I don’t feel that word describes what we actually stand for. For me it’s more about trying to rediscover something forgotten. This is how I personally feel about Humanimal. And also I think we take it quite…”

Ana: “Intuitively.”

Lora: “What we do is very intuitive, and for me – I don’t have a specific idea, everything just comes to me and then happens by itself, I’m a transmitter for it to happen. So basically, we are not in control. And this is what actually maybe you can compare to what you call primitive, releasing control. Because if you create art from a state of mind where you want to be in control, then maybe you are not really fully – how should I say… A force is coming through you – this is what we are actually about, I don’t know how to describe it.”


Do you mean going back to your instincts, like the way animals have instincts, or is it more about channelling something?

Ana: “I’d say that it’s more spiritual, sometimes there is no logic, there’s just this energy that you take and transform. If you try to rationalise everything it becomes impossible, it doesn’t work like that.”

Lora: “Actually for us this contrary approach to logic is very interesting, because it’s not that we do it on purpose, it just happens and we follow it. We also have this chemistry between us, so it really works both ways.”


But in a way it’s about releasing rational thought or stepping outside of the rational?

Ana: “Maybe stepping outside of your body and spreading outside.”

Lora: “You can put it like that as well, stepping outside of this rationality. If you think of how the world is –­ let’s say that the mainstream is about rationality and control, because human beings, they like to think that they’re in control. We think that we are in control and dominating here, but actually it’s not true. It’s a big question that we are not actually – I do not believe that we are fully in control, because there are other forces that come through us and are around us. It’s paying attention to those forces.”


Do you think it would be good for people to let themselves be driven by this energy instead of trying to be in control?

Ana: “It’s not like you’re driven, it’s all about canalizing because in my… This is not a good thing to say, but there are people who cannot manage their energy, and that can lead to disaster, like the world is now.”

Lora: “I don’t think it’s either or – when you say you are being a transmitter for something higher, I don’t mean becoming totally obsessed by it, because this is a different thing. You’re still channelling something – it comes through you, this energy, and in a way you are controlling it, but not in this conscious, rational or logical way. It’s really hard to say what it is.”

Ana: “We can use this really basic example: I want to make political art. You don’t think that you want to make political art, you make it.”

Lora: “Exactly, it just happens. You don’t speculate about it, you don’t preach about it. There are two ways to write a book – well, there are many ways, but I just want to say two examples – one would be that you’d go look for references and quote other writers and take this information and make statements based on this, and the other would be to use your own knowledge or approach. It’s a different approach than just collecting information from here and there and trying to put it together. It’s tapping into the unconscious and trying to look within yourself, and based on that information that we all have but have forgotten you can probably make the same sort of statements.”

Ana: “That’s the thing about nowadays society, or maybe schools as well, they teach you to follow and to be inside a cube, and if you do something different it’s like no no no, you have to do it like this, you must never step out of the square.”

One difference that I see between humans and animals is that we have culture and society and societal norms. Is Humanimal also about unlearning human culture and socialization?

Ana: “But you know that animals also have a kind of societal…”

Lora: “…structure.”

Ana: “They are also organised, they also form groups, like for example lions, the male lion who has all the females, they have a certain structure, or some birds who take turns in taking care of their offspring. Maybe they are such elementary structures, but how can we know, we cannot really go into their minds… it’s a tricky question. ”


I was thinking more about learned culture, like for example you were talking about how people are taught to think a certain way in school, is it about unlearning these kinds of things?

Lora: “To me it is about unlearning, definitely it is about unlearning. This world at the moment needs some sort of – there should be some sort of awakening going on at the moment, because we are so trapped in some models that don’t really work for us, or in reality they are illusionary, like the schools that Ana was talking about, it’s a very good example. You just learn a bunch of nonsense, there’s no practicality. On the other hand, it’s not just that it’s not practical, but it is damaging. Unfortunately, society is blind to it. When you look for example at Vedic scriptures or ancient knowledge, you find such a profound information that has been forgotten. The good thing is that now some people are trying to reawaken this knowledge, and to understand and promote this idea that actually human beings are much more powerful – and I don’t mean power as in abusing power – they are powerful in many ways. When you learn things in school, they’re just trying to limit you, to limit your abilities.”

Ana: “For you to be under control.”

Lora: “Yeah, to be under control.”

You mentioned Vedic scriptures and ancient knowledge, what kind of knowledge do you think this ancient knowledge that has been forgotten is, what does it mean to you? 

Lora: “For me personally it’s about – a lot of it is about the connection between human and Nature which has been severed and needs to be re-established, coming back to or going back to Nature and reconnecting with Nature. That for me is one of the most important things. That’s exactly why I mentioned it, and of course beyond that there are other things… like superpowers (laughs).”

Ana: “I also think about this connection, a very clear example is that we build blocks of cement to live in instead of living in nature, surrounded by it or sleeping on the soil – well, you don’t have to sleep on the soil, but it’s just a super weird example of how we make everything grey, and then it’s like, I live here and I have this bubble, so I’m protected inside this grey material – which I guess is a form of severing the energy as well.”


We humans are obsessed of having everything in clearly defined areas or cubes, or something.

Lora: “Also I want to add that it’s not only Nature, a connection with Nature, you can call it the Supreme or you can call it God or whatever, but for me this is the most important connection, andit has been severed because of the abuse of organised religion. And of course it has done a lot of harm, and unfortunately many people are wounded by it, they don’t really want to look at that connection anymore, so I feel that is something very, very important. Like in the Vedic scriptures they talk about the Supreme, which is God and everything around us, but of course people have – like in Christianity we have this totally different idea of who God is, this idea of this person up there in the sky – I don’t know, funny concepts which have really confused our minds.”

Do you believe in an animistic view of Nature, like spirits of nature, or that everything is nature has a spirit?

Ana: “If a spirit is energy, then yes, I do believe it.”

Lora: “For me everything is energy – everything. There is no separation between an animate and inanimate object. Everything is made of different frequencies.”


When you talk about energy, do you mean energy more like in physics or do you mean energy as for example in Chi in Chinese philosophy?

Ana: “I would say more like the Chi of the Chinese.”

Lora: “For me they overlap, it’s just a different explanation of things. I feel that physics is moving progressively towards spirituality, and at one point they will merge, I guess – I hope (laughs). I really hope.”

Ana: “It’s also like religion, they’re all the same, they just have different…”



Ana: “Yeah, like Catholics or Protestants or Buddhists or whatever.”

Lora: “It’s the same thing, they’re just using different terms to describe things.”

I noticed that there is a lot of mythological references in your works, for example to the Tibetan Book of the Dead or Hindu mythology. In Finnish folklore Finnish people were believed to have a strong connection with the bear, the bear was thought to be of a celestial origin and of shared ancestry with the people. Is there some mythological animal or animal mythology that you feel particularly connected to?

Ana: “There is no one in particular, it depends on the day.”

Lora: “We want to stay quite free with Humanimal and not create a particular bond to let’s say Hinduism, or Tibetan Buddhism or Tao or anything – I don’t really feel that we should be bound to something specific, rather we want to take it more in a transcendent fashion, beyond all these religions, beyond all these mythologies, beyond everything. This is how I personally feel.

“For example, for one piece we have used lyrics from Rimbaud, from the verse “Faun’s Head” (“Tête de Faune”), and of course, you think about the mythology of the Faun and everything, but for me, what I get from reading poetry like this is that it’s going beyond what the Faun is, what the Faun means, transcending that and going to so many different levels. This poetry is just so beautiful that it goes beyond everything, it transcends time and space. Of course, you have to read the poem, but in the piece it doesn’t matter if the lyrics are hearable or not, it comes through in the energy of the piece.”


What does the Faun represent to you?

Lora: “All these creatures that have animal and human together, that are a mixture of animal and human, they represent power in the ultimate way, that’s it.”

Ana: “Imagine, as the Faun you would have the freedom of the horse, for example, that would be amazing (laughs). Sometimes I wish I could be a Faun.”

Lora: “Or the freedom of the deer.”

Ana: “Of the deer or whatever – to have four legs and be running in the field.”

Lora: “When I think about these creatures, it also goes into magic, the world of magic and fairy tale, which is amazingly beautiful, all these stories and myths, they are just so – somehow for me they’re very beautiful, and then it goes into the world of beauty as well, so it’s beyond even… It goes to so many different levels.”

You talked earlier about religion and Christianity, and I think some religions – or maybe all religions, but for example Christianity – has imposed its own moral view on people. If you think about animals, they don’t really have morals, they act only on their instincts. Is this project also about stepping outside of moral boundaries, beyond good and evil? Do you think there is such a thing as good and evil?

Ana: “No.”

Lora: “No.”

Ana: “It’s just a question of how you manage energy to do something fruitful. How you can – not really control it – but how you can direct that energy so it does not stay only in this mundane level, goes beyond of what is good and what is wrong.”

Lora: “I definitely believe that good and evil come from the human mind. They exist only in the mind of the human. I don’t believe that there is something like that…”

Ana: “Not in the animal world.”

Lora: “In the animal world there is no good and evil. And when people start to think about it, like yes, there’s the evil, they just emphasize it so much that they end up amplifying it.”


The animal world can also be quite cruel. Of course, animals don’t usually engage in unnecessary cruelty, but in a way it’s still cruel, the survival of the strongest. Isn’t it also part of being human to be able to transcend this cruelty and for example stop eating other animals. So aren’t we also able to be better than animals in some way?

Ana: “I don’t believe we should claim superiority over other species. That’s a difficult question, I don’t know how… Maybe we should eat each others instead of animals (laughs).”

Lora: “I saw a great poster in Helsinki: “Eat humans, not animals”. I loved it, because it was so brutal. I don’t know, it’s a really difficult question, because I feel also that we still don’t really know so much about animals. Of course, we see this cruelty that animals eat other animals, but I feel also that in the animal world there is some sort of respect. One thing is for sure, that we need to strive to be better, not in comparison to animals, but just better. And I truly believe that the way is not being cruel, not harming other creatures and animals, not harming nature.”

Ana: “We might not eat each other physically, but we do it mentally, which is even worse.”


Yes, of course in reality humans are pretty cruel towards each other.

Lora: “Very cruel. Especially verbally. I wish this world to be a bit more quiet. But at least we can learn a lot from animals and their language and the way the communicate. There’s so much to learn from the animal world. Of course we don’t need to take everything, because they have their own little worlds that we don’t really understand because they’re just different creatures than us, but we can look at them with respect and take something from them and learn something from them. Like for example all of these postures or movements in Tai Chi, a lot of them are based on animal movements. And a lot of the asanas in Yoga are based on animal movements, they are very ancient practices, Tai Chi and Yoga. They have stayed through the times and they have proved that they have benefits on the human mind and body, so I think this is something to look at.”

March 28, 2020, via email.

While coming back to this interview, many of the things we discussed a few years ago seem extremely topical in these exceptional times, for example Lora’s comment on how we humans like to think that we are in control, but in reality there are other, non-human forces at play that demand to be accounted for.

In this moment where a microscopic non-human virus, an entity that defies the traditional border of organic and inorganic, a byproduct of an abusive human–animal-relationship such as the wildlife trade, is collapsing the global economy and brining to question many fundamentals of the whole Western way of life – while I don’t want to dismiss the human suffering caused by the virus, do you think that in the long run this crisis may also open possibilities for less anthropocentric ways of existing in the world to emerge?

Humanimal: “We certainly think that the world won’t be the same after this crisis, or at least we have hope in it. We see the current situation as an opportunity to rethink structures, values and life as a whole both on individual and global level. This is a time for seclusion and contemplation. Sometimes we need something that forces us to change, and this microscopic virus might be the push we need to question the way we live and behave today. We have exploited nature and caused enormous suffering for the planet and ourselves. We no longer can continue following this path. Now is the time to see where we went wrong and make changes. It is also amazing how much bipolarity a crisis like this can unleash, solidarity as well as robbery.

“But also the sad truth is that we humans never learn, do you remember reading about the Spanish flu or the black death? Human history is full of crises of different levels. Hopefully we can also see the situation from a non-human perspective and shift to a more harmonious existence with nature in the future. We do see it happening. The question is how long will it take for us to realise that we are not alone on this planet.”

Pauli Samuli Huttunen

Writer and Visual Artist at Sudenmarja.
To bring to light the hidden things of darkness.