A zoo is a place where as many species and varieties of animal as possible are collected in order that they can be seen, observed, studied. In principle, each cage is a frame round the animal inside it. Visitors visit the zoo to look at animals. They proceed from cage to cage, not unlike visitors in an art gallery who stop in front of one painting, and then move on to the next or the one after next. Yet in the zoo the view is always wrong. Like an image out of focus. One is so accustomed to this that one scarcely notices it anymore; or, rather, the apology habitually anticipates the disappointment, so that the latter is not felt. And the apology runs like this: what do you expect? It’s not a dead object you have come to look at it; it’s alive. It’s leading its own life. Why should this vision coincide wit its being properly visible? Yet the reasoning of this apology is inadequate. The truth is more startling.

However you look at these animals, even if the animal is up against the bars, less than a foot aware from you, looking in the public direction, you are looking at something that has been rendered absolutely marginal; and all the concentration you can muster will never be enough to centralize it.

John Berger, “Why Look at Animals?”, in Lapham’s Quarterly, summer 2008