Conceptually, this series has much in common with Uncertain Terrain – also available on this site. The images were shown at the Nottingham Castle Arts Gallery in my solo exhibition. The images were exhibited at large scale and were shown alongside a floor based installed set of ten A0 prints showing highly modified cross-sections of a diseased tree.
The work came about through an engagement in reading on evolutionary theory, biogenetics and ethics. The images reference analysis of the impact of the conventions of natural sciences taxonomies and naming, which classifies, identifies and distinguishes species and animals. Watmore (2002) describes the consequence of the naming process in terms of human-nature interrelations.
“In the process of drawing up such inventories, animals were removed from their environmental and social context and preserved as unique specimens by diagrammatic or corporeal means. Through their depiction as organic machines, disassembled and mapped anatomically (as heads, transections, skeletons, embryos, etc. ) in zoological illustrations, animals became mobilized as species through the expanding networks of science”.
My interest at that time was also stimulated by the media coverage on the near completion of the human genome, growing scientific capacity within genetic cloning and biogenetics and human, animal and plant engineering.
The objects used in these large collage pieces came from the natural world, but were far removed from being perfect, exotic or unique specimens.
Nevertheless they offered a starting point to be used to assemble and reassemble in both the darkroom (initial sketches) and then finally in the computer. The aim was to create a collection of new symmetrical specimens of uncertain origin and scale that could allude to both the familiar and everyday and the unfamiliar and the out of the ordinary.
These specimens were very carefully arranged within the total black picture space and, for me, evoked a personal memory as a child of visiting natural history collections and experiencing the highly detached, organizational systems of presentation. These systems seemed so at odds at the time with my real life sense of ‘the natural’ as a fully integrated phenomenon, to which I sensed that I was seamlessly connected.
- Watmore, S. (2002). Hybrid Geographies, Natures Cultures Spaces. London: Sage Publications