Thinking more about dead animals being used by humans for different purposes, This week I gathered and read quite a bit about the subject and tried to realise what is my point of view.
Taxidermy for example, has been in use for many years in different levels of art. In the (great)book “Still Life”, Melissa Milgrom explores taxidermy from many angles and even stuffs a squirrel and enters it to compete in an official championship (in the amateur category).
The first kind she accompanies are a family of taxidermy experts that do work mostly for museums, preserving animals that died natural deaths in zoos or in the wild, some were road kills and few hunted. The Family are described as animal lovers, striving to bring them back to life and present the glory of nature without causing it much harm.
phrases that stayed with me:
– Taxidermy is an attempts to animate nature while preventing it from taking it’s course.
– The beauty of nature and the harsh reality of death ”
Taxidermy champions also share a love for nature, which they choose to show in a slightly different way by “obsessively killing things just to put them back to life”. The championships are a predominantly macho male environments celebrating the hunting of animals. “In his (Walker, the champion. z.s ) view, worshiping nature and killing animals are perfectly compatible endeavours.”
An interesting fact is a category called re-creations in which not a single part of the animal belonged to the real actual specimen. For example, a panda that is made from different animal parts, not including any panda parts at all.
Searching for experts
An wonderful find and knowledge resources that my classmate Ken Amarit mentioned is the Morbid Anatomy museum and library in Brooklyn. It is run by Joanna Ebenstein and every Saturday between 2 to 6 pm she is there for information and questions and I hope to get there this Saturday to interview her. She is dealing with the way we perceive death and beauty both in humans and in animals and also in The way we collect and create specimens. In one of her projects she documented people’s cabinets of curiosities – (“WunderKammer”) which is a concept that I find very interesting.
Cabinet’s of curiosities are basically the first version of museums. Placed in homes to collect and present the wonders and oddities of our world. In the interview with Joanna about the project, she talks about the randomness of the layout of these cabinets vs. the way museums are curated.
Something about the cabinet of curiosities concept appeals to me (being the grid fan graphic designer that I am) and I’m trying to see how I can translate the format to a different medium perhaps.
Many artists have incorporated dead animals in their works in different ways.
The most famous one is probably Damien Hirst, with his sharks, sheep, butterflies and cabinets. He might be a good case study and I feel that he revolves around the same themes in his work.
Antennae magazine that Marina mentioned in class has been a great resources for artists whose work relates to nature. A list of artists that I found inspiring in the magazine and on the web:
Cai Guo Qiang
David R Harper
Emily Mayer – Damien Hirst’s taxidermist, I love this taxidermy realistic house dog. especially because it’s not attempting to glorify reality.
A technological reference
Thinking about technology and the way I can use it in the project.
I stumbled into this project which I found quite disturbing but also thought provoking.
This artist inserted mechanical parts and a microcontroller into a dead frog’s body and moved it inside liquid, badly (intentionally?) trying to emulate it’s natural movement and broadcasting it on the web. I think the thought about cyborgs and combining technology with organic beings is very interesting. The thing I dislike about this project and the problem I have with taxidermy in general is that it seems to me like after all they have done wrong, humans are actually torturing an animal’s corpse without consent and disregarding the possibility of the animals entitlement for burial the same way we bury humans.
When a terror attack or some kind of massive death occurs in Israel, there is an organisation called Zaka that searches the entire area for any tiny piece of human remains to bring to burial. In Judaism, every little piece of the human is considered sacred for us yet none of the animal parts are, in life or in death.
I feel that these are the areas I want to move around but I need one more day of thinking and hopefully by class tomorrow I will have a solid idea of a project.