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Lucy and Deep Anatomy

In Uncategorized on 24 February, 2010 at 12:16 pm

There was a fabulous broadcast of This American Life available as a free Podcast this week through i-Tunes. The theme was “The Parent Trap” and it was all about how parents, in trying to raise their children in their best effort, can end up setting a trap for and undermining their children. The second part of the broadcast was of especial interest to my work, as it was about “Lucy” the chimpanzee. I had heard of Lucy before, but this episode was of especial interest, as it detailed what happened to Lucy after the finish of Maurice Temerlin’s book Lucy: Growing Up Human: A Chimpanzee Daughter in a Psychotherapist’s Family. Definitely an amazing story, though with a quite unhappy ending.

During Lucy’s years growing up in her human family she learned to:

eat with silverware,
communicate through use of 140 words of American sign language,
dress herself,
flip through magazines,
sit in a chair at the dinner table,
brew and serve tea,

Lucy also lied, which was previously thought to not happen in species other than humans.

You can download the Lucy episode of This American Life here.

So this story made me think about the artwork I’m creating on a very similar theme. I’ve been feeling very frustrated with my previous idea about putting the puppets on big human arms. I think it creates too much of a feeling of human supremacy- definitely not the idea I’m going for. So despite the two weeks making casts, learning to make casts, buying wax and materials, I’m going to discard that idea. I think it’s ultimately ineffective.

In a previous post I put up some working images of fused photographs from “real” pictures of animals mixed with the puppet “idea” of the animal I have made. In the past days I’ve been using different photographs to do this project again, this time with high-resolution photographs from books that I manipulate. This creates a real sense of the lack of identity that visual images give animals. Since we have no sense of the animal in photographs, no sense of identity, no relationship between the self of the human animal and the other animal. So these works do achieve a sense of how other animals are visually misrepresented in human animal society. What I need to focus on now is the part two to this idea which is how can I exhibit the similarities between the other animal and the human animal?

I have an idea for this second part. I want to focus on the deep anatomy of animals that I represent, and show how it’s only our superficial anatomy that is really of a difference… this reflects that time-old saying “beauty on the inside”. I also want to incorporate with these images stories of how the animals I’m depicting use tools, have specialized functions, communicate, use fire… whatever it is that they do that draws them closer to the human idea of what makes us “uniquely” human.

I see now that I’ve made figures which illustrate what is wrong with our visual relationship with other animals, but I haven’t yet juxtaposed this with what could be a right way to handle a visual relationship with animals. In exploring the deep anatomy of other animals in contrast to humans, and through an exploration of volumetric line to depict the form I hope to move forward.

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