January 28, 2016

Exhibition and symposium: Dead Animals, or the curious occurrence of taxidermy in contemporary art 

David Winton Bell Gallery at Brown University
Nicholas Galanin, Inert, 2009. Wolf pelts and felt, 29 3/4 x 65 x 72 inches. Lent by the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, University of Washington, Seattle.

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.

February 5
Opening reception and conversation with artist Polly Morgan

February 26–27
“Taxidermy, Art, and the Animal Question: A Symposium”

Rachel Poliquin
“Taxidermy and a Poetics of Strangeness”

Petra Lange-Berndt
“A Life of Its Own: Taxidermy as Craftivism”

Steve Baker
“Beyond Botched Taxidermy”

Stephanie Turner
“Animal Skins, Photographic Surfaces: Taxidermy as Lens Craft”

Bryndis Snæbjörnsdóttir & Mark Wilson
“Fading Symbols, Disappearing Worlds: The Cultural Lives of Endangered Species”

Cary Wolfe
“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”

March 17
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.



Dead Animals, or the curious occurrence of taxidermy in contemporary art at David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University

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