Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir & Mark Wilson | Brown University, US
Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir & Mark Wilson
23 January – 27 March 2016
At a time when natural history museums are moving away from taxidermy, there has been a resurgence of interest in popular culture—in Internet blogs and image collections, in fashion, home décor, and advertising—as well as in art practice. Dead Animals, or the curious occurrence of taxidermy in contemporary art surveys current artistic use of taxidermy through the work of eighteen artists: Maurizio Cattelan, Kate Clark, Mark Dion, Nicholas Galanin, Thomas Grünfeld, Damien Hirst, Karen Knorr, Annette Messager, Polly Morgan, Deborah Sengl, Angela Singer, Bryndis Snæbjörnsdóttir & Mark Wilson, Richard Barnes, Jules Greenberg, Sarah Cusimano Miles, Richard Ross, and Hiroshi Sugimoto.
Taxidermy animals are extraordinary animal-things. As Rachel Poliquin—author of the cultural history The Breathless Zoo: Taxidermy and the Culture of Longing—affirms, “at once lifelike yet dead, both a human-made representation of a species and a presentation of a particular animal skin.” The exhibition and accompanying symposium will examine the cultural history of taxidermy, social factors that have contributed to artists’ interests in the “idea of the animal,” and the ways in which these interests are manifest in artists’ works. It will question how taxidermy, with its inherent association with death, differs from the use of live animals or animal substitutes such as stuffed animals, and why taxidermy may be particularly relevant to the exploration of the human-animal question. Finally, it will examine ethical issues surrounding the incorporation of animals in art.
A number of artists in the exhibition react to human treatment of animals and the environment. Reflecting on the Victorian and colonial roots of taxidermy, the artistic collaborators Snæbjörnsdóttir and Wilson have created an archive of extant taxidermied polar bears in the United Kingdom. Photographing each bear where it was found—in circuses, museums, trophy rooms, and domestic settings—they combine the photos with a textual history of the animals’ “second life,” the details of how, when, and where they were captured, who stuffed them, and where they have resided since. They wittily call the series Nanoq: flatout and bluesome.
Opening reception and conversation with artist Polly Morgan
“Taxidermy, Art, and the Animal Question: A Symposium”
“Taxidermy and a Poetics of Strangeness”
“A Life of Its Own: Taxidermy as Craftivism”
“Beyond Botched Taxidermy”
“Animal Skins, Photographic Surfaces: Taxidermy as Lens Craft”
Bryndis Snæbjörnsdóttir & Mark Wilson
“Fading Symbols, Disappearing Worlds: The Cultural Lives of Endangered Species”
“Curating the Life/Death Relation: The Case of the Passenger Pigeon”
Mark Dion & Robert Marbury, et al.
“Playing with Dead Things: The Ethics of Animal Bodies in Art”
Artist talk: Nicholas Galanin
Co-sponsored by the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology
Funding for the exhibition and associated programs was provided by the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation, the Creative Arts Council Arts Initiative, Brown University, and the Marshall Woods Fine Arts Lectureship, Brown University.