Accepted Paper:

Speculative Taxidermy: Vulnerability and Materiality  


Giovanni Aloi (The School of the Art Institute of Chicago)

Paper short abstract:

'Speculative Taxidermy' is defined by a deep investment in materiality devoted to the exploration of shared, physical and ontological vulnerabilities that haunt contemporary practices. Its capitalization on indexicality is intrinsically bound to biopolitics in the context of the Anthropocene.

Paper long abstract:

'Speculative Taxidermy' is concerned with a range of contemporary works of art in which visible animal skin is critically employed as a defining indexical interface between animal, human, and the medium of representation itself. Approached in specific ways, preserved animal skin can unlock new ethical and political opportunities in human-animal relationships and convey the urgency of addressing climate change, capitalist exploitation, and mass extinction.

Based on a resolutely nonanthropocentric take on the materiality of one of the most controversial mediums in art, "Speculative Taxidermy" relentlessly questions past and present ideas of human separation from the animal kingdom whilst situating taxidermy as a powerful interface between humans and animals, rooted in a shared ontological and physical vulnerability.

'Speculative Taxidermy' is therefore defined by a deeper investment in materiality; an investment devoted to the exploration of shared, physical and ontological vulnerabilities concealed by the naturalization of past human-animal institutionalized relationships that still haunt contemporary practices. In this talk, these themes are explored through the anthropomorphically modeled cowhides of Nandipha Mantambo and in the manipulated horse bodies of Berlinde de Bruyckere.

Panel P003
Representing and Depicting Animals