Fascinating exhibition on how we, as humans, think about animals.  This seems fundamental to me that this relationship to nature reflects how we think about and understand ourselves and our place in the world.  This exhibition was all about this and our relationship with nature and our behaviour to it – looking to the past and on to the future to see how this relationship has and may change.  Organised around four distinct themes, ‘Ordering’, ‘Displaying’, ‘Observing’ and ‘Making’, the exhibition was really interesting to me in terms of understanding our own sense of place and our encounters with other animals, insects and creatures in the world.  What we see and how we see are both crucial elements of this too.

I was particularly interested in the ‘Displaying’ and ‘Observing’ and the taxidermy of the 19th Century using Dioramas as a way of presenting nature during this time as both an educational but decorative device.  The idea of the anthropomorphic display of a Taxidermy Diorama of Squirrels playing cards was paralleled by a video entitled Moth (2002) by Edwina Ashton, giving a sardonic and humorous interpretation of exploring moths and their destructive behaviour, through performance and wearing a moth costume within a domestic interior.

In slight parallel to Charles Avery’s work was exhibited the plan of the proposed Elephant and Rhinoceros Pavilion for the Zoological Society in Regent’s Park by Hugh Casson (RA) in 1964.  The Elephants were proposed to be displayed in a raised platform as if they were performers on the stage, to the spectators below.

Hugh Casson PRA (British, 1910-1999)
‘Elephant House Regents Park’,
initialled and inscribed, pen and wash, unframed,
35 x 26.7cm (13 3/4 x 10 1/2in)

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