Wunderkammer - The Cabinet of Wonders
16 September to 13 November 2016
Artist Rod McRae uses taxidermied animals in his installations to tackle the issues of climate change and conservation in this fascinating exhibition.
‘Wonder’ seems like such an outmoded notion in our technological age where everything is so readily explained by the scientific method. ‘Wonder’ however does exist in the human imagination often triggered, yet not fully explained - by an object.
Rachel Poliquin’s, The Breathless Zoo, taxidermy and the cultures of longing 2012, puts it thus: From early cabinets of wonder to philosophical repositories, collections of curiosities never really displayed knowledge, rather, they acted as warehouses of raw potentiality. 1
Krzyszt of Pomian writing in his book Collectors and Curiosities suggests “Objects were not seen - but seen through”.2 In other words the objects become like portals to other worlds, exotic lands, adventure, mystery and the excitement of the unknown, all without the inconvenience of traveling to them.
Wunderkammer consists of 15 portals into what was, what is, and what could be. Each work explores an animal ‘issue’ using real preserved animal bodies (taxidermy) to tell their stories. Using the real thing creates art that is both authentic and empathetic. I argue that sculptures of animals rendered in resin, plastic, stone, wood or metal cannot speak as directly to us as the real animal. Each work touches on a different aspect of the human-animal relationship including biodiversity, pollution, climate change, conservation and stewardship. Each work asks us to examine our responsibilities as fellow travelers on this planet.
All the animals in Wunderkammer have been ethically sourced from South Africa, South America and the USA. No animal has been harmed to make this work in the first instance; the skins are the result of death by natural causes, medical euthanasia, hunting, culling and food production and have been traded on, sometimes multiple times before they became part of this body of work. The skins of the antelopes and the baboon are the byproducts of trophy taking.