'THE HOUSE OF DEAD ANIMALS' ('Dom martwych zwierzat')
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The titular description 'The Home of Dead Animals' denotes a taxidermy laboratory in which dead animals are granted an 'illusion of life'. The article is illustrated by literary and artistic examples of the mentioned motif. Artists made frequent use of dead animals, including stuffed ones, starting with the Dutch still life, especially of the vanitas variety. A taxidermist who conserves and renders immortal resembles a vanitas painter. The iconography of taxidermy, however, is not extensive (see, e. g. Henry Coeylas' /1880-1920/ Reconstruction of the Dodo Bird in the Laboratory of Prof. Qustalet /1903/, a painting of value for the natural sciences). Artists much more frequently resorted to the motif of an abattoir and depicted skinned animals (Rembrandt, Goya, Soutine, Bacon et al.). While admiring their masterful qualities, the critics, as a rule, omitted the eschatic dimension of such works. A slightly different aspect of the problem is disclosed by the assemblages by Robert Rauschenberg: Odalisque and Monogram (1955-1959) and the performances by Beuys: Siberian Symphony (3 February 1963) and How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare (1965). Compositions by Rauschenberg are autonomous objets d'art that ignore ultimate issues, in contrast to Beuys, whose oeuvre spans between life and the trauma of the threat and death. Alongside the 'Rauschenberg model' (a dead animal envisaged as a passive element of the world of art) and the 'Beuys model' (a dead animal as a physical 'participant' of the artist's activity) there is Animal Pyramid (1993) by Katarzyna Kozyro, showing the daily proximity of death; by breaking a taboo Kozyro attained that which contemporary art finds particularly difficult - the sphere of the ultimate.
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