Making Nature: How we see animals at Wellcome Collection London 2016
This show was an examination of how we humans see nature. An exploration of how we think, feel and value other species through 100 objects ranging from; taxidermy, photography, video, and literature.
This part historical/ part social commentary exhibition is a refreshing concept and featured some inspiring works by Hiroshi Sugimoto, who I will explore in this post, Marine Huggonnier, and a collaborative piece by Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla which I will discuss in a separate post.
This was the first time I’d seen a Hiroshi Sugimoto work and it just stopped me in my tracks. Initially I thought ‘Gemsbok’ 1980, was a photograph of these animals in the wild, but to find out it was a photograph of a museum diorama just took it to another level. The balance between the airy upper part and textured lower parts of the image broken by the striking features of the gemsbok, make for a captivating image that makes me feel I’m alone with these animals.
Sugimoto is quoted as saying ‘Upon first arriving in New York in 1974, I did the tourist thing. Eventually I visited the Natural History Museum, where I made a curious discovery: the stuffed animals positioned before painted backdrops looked utterly fake, yet by taking a quick peek with one eye closed, all perspective vanished, and suddenly they looked very real. I’d found a way to see the world as a camera does. However fake the subject, once photographed, its as good as real.’
Sugimoto believes in working with nature, avoiding sophisticated photography editing tools and software, and forging craft with artistry.
‘I am against evolution…I am sticking to the traditional method. I’m very craft orientated person, but at the same time I want to make something artistic’. Hiroshi Sugimoto, Art in the Twenty First Century, season 3, Memory
In art21.org’s ‘Art in the Twenty-First Century: Memory’ show, Sugimoto discusses his ‘Architecture’ series, where he addresses the dilapidation of Mid 20th Century architecture, juxtaposing the striking modern structures viewed in architectures books, with another view, removing the markings of time and presenting them as blurred imagery. The idea of presenting the everyday in an alternative way is very interesting to me.
Contemporay artist Gerard Byrne’s current work involves a 18 minutes film of the worlds oldest natural history museums diorama. see here