The Wonder Book of Animals, 2013 – 2014
Photos and the texts in these works are excerpted from “The Wonder Book of Animals”, an encyclopaedia printed in the 1960’s in England. The book employs arbitrary categorizations and a tone that oscillates between fiction and documentary. Its subject animals, whether they inhabit a zoo or their natural habitats, are featured in the same context; partly in a ridiculing tone of voice and partly in an overpraising one. As Richard Kearney remarked, alienation results in an anxiety that oscillates wildly between demonization and idolization. Kearney’s remark mostly alludes to interpersonal relationships. Yet he adds, “without a double critique of the self and of the other – which exposes illusory categories of ego and alien – we can no longer speak of any real relation between humans, or indeed between humans and non-humans (animal or divine).”
It is then possible to contemplate Kearney’s theory of alienation in a way to include other species. Even so, is it possible to reconstruct the humans’ gaze of their perpetual other, their eternal alien? In this context, how to read an encyclopaedia that presents photographs of animals in their natural habitats, in zoos, as pets and even animals dressed in military uniforms, presented under the title ‘animals in uniforms’, in the same tone of voice and the same context to its human audience?
These works focus on the potential narratives between the lines of the encyclopaedia while they explore the relationship between humanity, animalism and alienness. These works could be seen as an effort to deconstruct the pages and find new narratives beneath the surface of the pages.