Non-human Rights by Paulo Tavares is part of the project “A propos du Chthulucène” proposed by Maria Ptqk for the Jeu de Paume virtual space.
The video essay Non-human Rights expounds the thesis of radical universalism between humans and non-humans, taking as its starting point the debates that arose in connection with the recognition of the rights of nature in the Constitution approved in Ecuador in 2008. In the indigenous cosmovision, the claims concerning the Amazon region are not just disputes about land or against the extraction of natural resources; they also have to do with the basic right to existence and the maintenance of life, as reflected in the notions of Pachamama and sumak kawsay (commonly translated as Mother Nature and living fully, respectively).
The inclusion of concepts of this kind, derived from indigenous culture, in a legal text strains the limits of political law inherited by modernity and upsets the separation between subject and object, between natural history and social history. As Michel Serres suggests in Le Contrat naturel (1990), extensively quoted in the video, the social contract that relegated “the world” to the status of an inert object that could be appropriated and destroyed has to be replaced with a new kind of contract, a “natural” contract open to forms of legal subjectivity of the non-human.
Paulo Tavares is a Brazilian architect and urbanist based in Quito and London. His work is concerned with the relations between conflict and space as they intersect within the multi-scalar arrangements of cities, territories and ecologies. Grounded on research-based methodologies and commitment to field-work, Tavares’s practice combines design, media-based cartographies and writing as interconnected modalities of reading contemporary spatial conditions. He is currently developing a project on the violence of planning and the politics of ecology in Amazonia at the PhD Programme of the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths, UK. The video-essay Non-Human Rights is part of World of Matter, a multimedia collective project on the global ecologies of resource exploitation and circulation.