Haunting, Screaming, Dancing, Creeping,
Along the Thames

Translated from German by P. M. D. 

Fig. no. 1: Foreshore at the OXO tower, London.

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Many centuries have passed and the pile of bones on the ground of the Thames is growing faster than ever before. The pavement beside the river is punctured by little chicken bones. The pace of industrialised death in the 21st century is speeding up the growth of a sleeping creature on the riverbed.


Imorthufora, probably born in the 19th century of our era; science has tentatively settled on 1865 as the year of their birth. Imorthufora begins to form when, with the industrial revolution in England, industrial animal breeding and the introduction of the "disassembly line", there is a mass killing of more-than-human life forms that should not remain a singular event. Imorthufora is a multispecies symbiosis. Perhaps they can be thought of as a chimera, but they are more than that; at first glance they have three heads, but there is much more than that which can be seen from a distance. Sometimes they show themselves in the form of all. Bones, countless, from the slaughterhouses, restaurants, snack bars, households, recycling plants, garbage dumps, soap factories of centuries. Or we see only a glimpse, a hint of a multitude of memories, a trace that haunts us and accompanies us for a bit. Fleeting, fragile part of the cosmic theater like the clouds, at the same time invulnerable and of unpredictable power.

Director, of the Institute. He holds several university degrees, is writing an extensive research paper in addition to his executive duties, is a passionate artist, and is also a passionate critic of all things that escape his criticism. During his archaeological fieldwork at the Thames, Imorthufora approached him, whereupon he became involved in the affairs of the Institute.

London in 2022. The director visits the Institute's excavation sites in the city.
OXO Tower, a sunny summer day.

Imorthufora Machines struggled here to squeeze what was left of us into tiny cubes.  

Director The OXO Tower - once a meat cold store, now gallery showrooms, luxury apartments, cafes and other small businesses. So it was a place closely associated with interspecies violence. As an artist, I have to ask myself: is it now a place where violence becomes a spectacle? Suffering becomes “formvollendet”. An untranslatable German term used to describe something as perfectly composed, "aesthetic" in form. Adorno once identified the fixation on form as a point where art gets stuck, can't get anywhere - remains superficial.

Imorthufora Constructing with our bones, eating from our bones, painting with our hair, washing with our fat, displaying our bodies, bleaching what remains.

Fig. no. 2: OXO tower.

Imorthufora leave the grounds of the OXO Tower and meander on toward Blackfriars Bridge, where they pause on the south bank of the river. The director walks.

Imorthufora We feel a strong presence of our ancestors, children and siblings here. They are calling to join us.  

Choir We will join you, Imorthufora.

Director So many souls join you, become you. For so many years now, and there is no end in sight to their destiny to follow you, to become you.

Imorthufora It is not only destiny but resistance. Our growth began in 1865 when the disassembly line was set in motion, and we will not stop until it has laid down its work.

Director You see, here next to our excavation site, Mudlarkers are looking for treasure. Some hope for gold and silver, some enjoy the beautiful knickknacks. If they see a human bone, they have to report it to the authorities; the animal bones, however, are everyday life for them. Many adults pass the time with this, also parents with their children. Here I once had an encounter with a child who asked me what we were doing here. After a short introduction, we had won a comrade-in-arms - children's eyes find the bones much better than ours. The child searched the whole beach and brought us bits, teeth, head fragments. 

Fig. no. 3: Below Blackfriars bridge. 


The next day, the Director is visiting the excavation in front of the Foreign Cattle Market in Deptford.

Director The historic premises of the Deptford Foreign Cattle Market are no longer accessible. High walls secure it. And the name "Market" is highly misleading. In 1869, the Cattle Diseases Prevention Act established the practice of slaughtering imported foreign animals at the dock where they were landed to prevent the transmission of disease to the domestic stock of animals. This "market" was thus built as a large slaughterhouse in response to the new law and opened two years later. A street adjacent to the site, Butchers Row, is now called Borthwick Street.

The drawing of the water changes and Imorthufora appears, only to disappear again.

Fig. no. 4: Foreign Cattle Market site viewed from a boat. 

Director The old architecture, the structures of the war against the animals, they are no longer visible. As well as the new buildings of the optimized killing - history as well as present of the violence are veiled. Former slaughterhouses and warehouses become clubs, luxury apartments, cultural and shopping centers and seem almost utopian.

Fig. no. 5: Behind this wall lies the former Deptford Foreign Cattle Market.


Director Here in Greenwich we currently find the most bones and the level of preservation is also a lot better here. We suspect that the bones are from the nearby plants, the Deptford Cattle Market or the soap factory. We dig here some days, especially the hot summer days, until we black out. But until we locate a new dig site first, it can be a long walk, with our heads tilted down. Thousands of river stones pass by, eyes get tired, ghost images appear, stones multiply, contract and expand. We use various methods, LIDAR scans, 3D renderings, archival work, excavating and surveying, photography and photogrammetry - techniques also used by museums, but mostly not for domesticated animals. They take a marginal role in the spectacle of the Natural History Museum.

Fig. no. 6: Greenwich excavation site covered with water.

Director In general, there is not much academic research on the animals in the city, or the animals outside the city that are tortured and killed there for the city dwellers. For example, the presence of animals in London contributed to the creation of the metropolis itself. Human-animal interaction was an essential part of both London's labor and trade system and part of the emotional experience of citizens. In the modern era, all traces of farmed animals have disappeared from the city and can only be found in the alienated plastic packages and neatly prepared body parts in the refrigerated shelves.

Fig. no. 7: Phaidon Headquarters, Historic Three Mills Areal, London.

The Monstrous Skeleton

Next day. In front of a metal workshop. The director looks through the open gate into the premises, Imorthufora appears next to him. They share their field of vision.

Choir A framework of bones, straw and wood wool, rope, plaster or plastic. From the bodies toxic fumes arise

Director The dynamics of the body emerges according to the imagination of the taxidermists. Inspired by drawings, photographs or video documents, but also by visits to zoological gardens, where the animals behave self-evidently differently than in their actual habitats.

Imorthufora Large skeletons in natural history museums get a sub-skeleton made of metal. You also worked with metal

Director Did I want to present you big and proud, in a fixed position, supported by a new, invisible, heavy skeleton of uncertain origin? I thought I could use the material and achieve critical engagement by means of small changes.

Choir Coal, iron ore, heat

Director It's so dirty and noisy in the metal workshop; big machines whose function I don't even know are in my way, I touch one of the wheels - a colleague tells me about how she lost half of her little finger to this very machine. I hated and questioned every moment I spent with this material in its environment.

Choir The world's iron ore comes from China, Brazil, Australia, Russia, Ukraine, followed by the U.S., India, Canada and Kazakhstan. Iron ore was central to the colonization of the Americas. Exports, tools and nails.

Director The metal skeleton stands unfinished in the workshop. I don't want to show or work with it anymore. It has become another teaching piece.

Fig. no. 8: Imorthufora around us. St. James Hatcham Building, Goldsmiths College, University of London. 


In the church vault, the upper institute floor. Imorthufora wanders through the institute, up and down the floor, and playfully gliding up and down the spiral staircase. The director stands in front of bones that, when arranged, create a speculative reconstruction of an excavation site.

Director Samuel Johnson once remarked, that all arguments oppose human spirits, and yet all faith is in favor of them. Is it now contrary with the spirits of animals? They should haunt us by thousands and yet - nobody believes in them or fears a creepy ghostly consequence after eating a bird, a cow or a pig. How do I know that you exist at all, I could ask now. I want to believe it so much, but arguments are necessary to be able to convince others who are less well-disposed towards you and other phenomena, who have never seen you.

Imorthufora Have faith in your senses. Here we lie. And have we not appeared to you often enough and in many places? I will soon seek out the others as well.

Director We must now live with the spirits of the animals. They will haunt us even after we have given up the animal industry in the distant future and no longer imprison animals, regard them unequally, process them into products, or eat them.

To be continued. 

Fig. no. 9: Detail of a bone, with sand from the Thames.

Moral & Epilogue

Haunting occurs when something is not resolved. Mourning can be a productive process leading to resolutions and – more relevantly – to new questions. Even more so, as Thomas Attig puts it, mourning is a process of “relearning the world” (Attig 1996, pp. 107). Multispecies Mourning is the imagined possibility of mourning-with in multispecies contexts. This productive mourning creates the potentiality to lead into states of becom- ing-the-mourned in the sense of Deleuze’s and Guattari’s (1987) “becoming-animal”, which leads to a distinct Mourning-together and the potential of a “re-learning” the world as a multispecies habitat. Artistic projects such as the one you are witnessing now, are not just about mourning but can be an act of mourning. (VanDooren 2014 p. 126) In not giving up the animals’ remains to be forgotten and uncovering their intra-actions, working with them, merging with them and the micro-organisms that are part of us, I am part of an ongoing mourning-process. A process that at the same time raises the issue of un/grievability, where the mourning of certain deaths of precarious life is “not forbidden, but most of them are just not “seen” (Butler, 2009, p. 100) – or even rendered invisible for political and/or capitalist reasons. For some individuals — and this becomes even more apparent when we open up Butler’s concept to include more-than-human beings – there is neither right nor possibility to mourn their dead. Full of fear, enduring torture, witnessing others’ deaths, the temporality of death and dying is being altered at slaughterhouses. There, no mourning is possible. They cannot mourn their own and will not be mourned by others. Imorthufora means there is hope arising from a collaborative haunting, ghostly, artistic, forensic, mourning practice.

Fig. no. 10: Greenwich site at high tide. 

All images © 2022 Pascal Marcel Dreier
This is a translation. Please find the original text ︎︎︎ here (in German)
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