Friday, November 26, 2010

For the goth (They still exist, right?) on your holiday shopping list

What are you looking at, Sigmund?

In honor of Black Friday--and because I may as well keep up the focus on artistically accomplished nightmare fuel--let us note that a few artists are using the medium of taxidermy in new ways. If you didn't already know this--and I didn't until seeing a link on Dark Roasted Blend--you probably haven't given the possibilities of animal stuffing a lot of thought.

Taxidermy itself is generally thought to be as dead as its subjects to begin with. It's not that absolutely no one practices it anymore, but it belongs to an imagined past. Pop culture may be part of the equation. Since the release of Psycho a half-century ago, the idea of being a taxidermy enthusiast carries about it a whiff of "freeeeeeak!"

More than that, there are huge differences in the way life was lived in the nineteenth century and the way it's lived in the early twenty-first. More people in those days lived on farms and slaughtered animals for sustenance. Even among city dwellers, one was more likely to live with an elderly, dying relative. It was more accepted back then that death would have a place in the center of life.

Another interesting aspect to these works is the way they tie into a lengthy and hidden tradition: that of zoological trickery. The raw materials are from real animals. The creatures as depicted, however, are either fictitious or acting in ways far different from the way they would in life. When the world was larger, it was easier to mistake exotic specimens and huckster's chimerae. Errors were made on both sides.

Meaning, perhaps, that if natural history museums were as credulous as they were in the past, some of these works could pass muster as "real" grotesque creatures. I find that--along with the care and the beauty many exhibit--to be exciting.


susan said...

I really enjoyed looking at the DRB link and have bookmarked it for later browsing.

The images of creative taxidermy were a little disturbing but the care and artistry displayed was strangely beautiful. My favorite was the robin going through the smashed glass - so many birds have suffered that fate in our preponderantly glassed and steel constructions.

Overall, I rather like the idea of bestowing wonder rather than indifference.

Ben said...

Yeah, I have DRB bookmarked too. It's a neat site for people interested in Steampunk/retrofuturistic kinds of stuff.

And the idea of a memorial for all the crashed birds is a nice one.