Northampton Electronic Collection of Theses and Research

Specere and the photograph: co-existing in perpetual states of preservation

Murphy, A. C. (2017) Specere and the photograph: co-existing in perpetual states of preservation. Paper presented to: Living with Animals 3: Co-Existence, Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, Kentucky, USA, 22-25 March 2017.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Abstract: Entering the museological space, the visitor experiences a place where time stands still. The natural history museum in particular, presents to us zoological and ecological preservational displays. The photograph too encapsulates time - the product of a preservative process, it represents design in preventing decay and eventual demise. Through the photograph, this research project explores these museological simulacra of the real and their tenuous relationship between past (death) and present (life). Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud’s controversial metapsychology, in particular the death-drive, explored Triebentmischung – the organism’s struggle to diffuse the tension between the life-drive and the death-drive in its attempt to survive, but that in the end a return to a state of inertia was inevitable. My practice presented here explores how the dialectical connection between the preserved taxidermy specimen and the preserved photograph might represent such defiance against death. This paper draws on what philosopher Michel Foucault called the Modern episteme, an era of tumultuous developments in knowledge (taxidermy, photography and metapsychology), when science and art struggled to define themselves between the visible and empirical (conscious knowledge) and hidden nature (unknown unconscious). Foucault suggests a link between natural history and the visual, stating that, "Natural history is nothing more than the nomination of the visible". Philosopher, Roland Barthes stated that "Photography is an uncertain art" as well as a "science of desirable or detestable bodies". However, both Barthes and philosopher, Walter Benjamin presented arguments for the photograph having a dialectical ability to record something inherent in the subject, not observable to the naked eye – that it could authenticate the existence of something. This impulsive relationship between nature (art) and science (process) is investigated in my photographic representation of natural history, a purported ‘Truthsayer’ of Modern technology. This paper explores the possibility that the photograph has a dialectical ability to represent both the past (death) and the present (life), that in photographing taxidermy specimens and re-representing them, there is a possibility that the photograph changes what we see.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Animals, death, Freud, Foucault, animal, photograph, photography, museum
Subjects: T Technology > TR Photography > TR185 Philosophy
Creators: Murphy, Alexandra C
Faculties, Divisions and Institutes: Faculties > Faculty of Arts, Science & Technology > Fine Art
Date: 23 March 2017
Date Type: Publication
Event Title: Living with Animals 3: Co-Existence
Event Dates: 22-25 March 2017
Event Location: Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, Kentucky, USA
Event Type: Conference
Language: English
Status: Published / Disseminated
Refereed: No
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