24 April 2013

Stuffing

I have discussed my love of entropy a few times.

I have not discussed my love of taxidermy. Over at Lapham's there is a long read on Barnum's American Museum and the long history of making dead animals look alive.

Bobcat Form - Foster Taxidermy Supply
I'll sum it up. The American Museum of Natural History was set up in 1909. At the time, there was little concern for making things look real. Then Carl Akeley came along and invented processes that recreated musculature and bone under the skin. He posed the stuffed animals in lifelike poses, sensationalist ones. It was a revolution in making dioramas. He went through and remade all the AMNH scenes. To do so, a lot of animals had to die.

I once dated a guy who lived with my good friend and co-worker B. Their flat was divided by a large living room and kitchen. I dated C only for a few months, but one night I went to get ice for some water and discovered the bodies of several rats in the ice box.

In zip-loc bags.

B was, and still is, an amateur taxidermist. She made surreal and fascinating tableau out of them. I loved it and immediately began to research the process involved. The skinning, de-boning, drying, and then the assembling.

Whitetail Form - Foster Taxidermy Supply
What amazes me is that at one point the process involved filling a skin with sawdust and beating it until it looked vaguely like the animal it once was.

Today there is a whole industry built around this. Naturally. The forms that replicate musculature are amazing ghost-like images. It is like staring into the abyss of death.

The faces of these forms is what I can't help but stare at. They seem judgmental, angry. That they are molded to look very realistic is telling. One could argue that this is a good thing. That the people who kill then mount these animals should have to stare into that hollow face day in and day out.

I don't have a real problem with hunting. Nor with trophies. As long as the hunting wasn't brutal or illegal I have no issue. I would hope that the animal in question is at least used for meat.

I will admit to a massive sense of unease when coming into a room full of trophies. The false glass eyes, the slightly misty skins. Again. Ghosts. Tombs.

Like wondering through a catacomb filled with skulls.

It is a mirror of our own mortality. And it fascinates me that people who hunt would want that in their homes.