Shikar, or big game hunting, was an immensely popular pastime for the ruling class in India prior to British rule. When the British came into power, elaborate hunting ceremonies were used by Indians and British alike to display their prowess and status to each other. The British influence also brought improvements in hunting technology, which spurred an increase in the capture of game. Dozens of animals were killed in a single day’s hunt and the trophies decorated the halls of the princes’ extravagant hunting lodges. By the late 1870s, the population of many of these rare species had been severely depleted and a government-implemented system for >conservation had begun to take hold.
Applying strategies of mass production to hand-made objects, Allan McCollum’s labor-intensive practice questions the intrinsic value of the unique work of art. McCollum’s installations—fields of vast numbers of small-scale works, systematically arranged—are the product of many tiny gestures, built up over time. Viewing his work often produces a sublime effect as one slowly realizes that the dizzying array of thousands of identical-looking shapes is, in fact, comprised of subtly different, distinct things. Engaging assistants, scientists, and local craftspeople in his >process, McCollum embraces a collaborative and democratic form of creativity.
In Kingdom Under Glass, author Jay Kirk tells the life story of Carl Akeley, the pioneering taxidermist and adventurer who once killed a leopard with his bare hands. Taxidermist David Schwendeman runs his family’s 90-year-old studio and describes the techniques and hazards of modern taxidermy.
I came across Stephanie Craig’s ceramic sculptures in college when researching artists who worked in altered forms and unique finishes. Her series Specimen Collection also peaked my interest because of it’s play to cabinets of curiosities. Their forms and surfaces play immediately on the desire to look, collect and categorize. They way she presents them, little collections in lined wood cases, gives a wonder sense of a museum specimen. It’s pseudo-scientific but plays on notions of value and artifact in such a wonderful way. You can’t help but to want to touch them, hold them close in hand and inspect their surface and wonder about their story and history. All that genuine sense of the real and sense of awe comes from a manufactured clay object. Those forms, surface and presentation truly make you question where those impulses come from.
How could you not want to touch them and understand where they came from. The combination of uniqueness and the unknown, drives the impulse to understand, to collect and organize. On display it truly looks a collection from a small museum, put out for guests to observe and wonder.