On Stuffed Animals


Foscolo maintained that we cannot die until someone has preserved our memory in his heart.

This desire for immortality is what leads most of us to make art.

From the very beginning photography was used in the same way as taxidermy the difference being that it was not meant to end up in a museum, but to stay in our houses to have our loved ones always with us.

Parents commissioned portraits of their recently deceased children, posed to look as though they were still alive.

There is only a subtle or faint fline between photography, death and immortality.

This trinity is clearly before us when we consider Bayard’s photograph "as a drowned man" to protest his not being recognized as the inventor of photography.

Bayard will always be remembered for that photograph, a photograph which makes him both dead and immortal, though at the time he was simply alive.

Photography is the place of memory: we don't remember the moment we lived, but the image which represents it.

Let us now move behind the camera.

When I was young, I took photographs with an analogue reflex. I thought about the pictures I took as if they were small deaths. The very moment I pushed the shutter release and the mirror moved down, I couldn't see what was in front of me, I couldn't see anything. For just a brief instant I was not there, I was non-existant or 1/60 of a second. But what I was registering on the image was still going on, was living, was becoming the referent of the image I was impressing on the film. Still, I wasn't there and I didn't know what was going on. I was absent from reality for 1/60, I was dead to the moment.

Dead in order to create an immortal instant.

What a paradox.

Soon I stopped looking through the lenses, not to miss the instant of the shot.

Later I would jump in front of the lense to try to own the future. To set up a fictitious present, a present which didn’t exist, as I didn't exist when I looked through the lense of my reflex. A present which is fictitious because there is no one to see it (like the tree falling silently in the empty forest).

The only spectator there, in the room, is the camera, the instrument which is by its very nature a witness, the witness.

The latent image, once printed, reveals the narration of the past and its immortal perception in the future.

Me, or should I say, my image, in the exact same way as a stuffed animal in a zoological museum, becomes an icon of something. I am no longer an individual, but an icon.

At this point, the caption, the explanatory text, the label on the glass cabinet comes into being and transforms the icon into an index, it lends identity to the object.

The animal is no longer a specimen but an exemplar. The body becomes the subject.