ou le gai savoir du monde animal

At times on nice days complete silence rules in the darkened alleys and rooms of the Geneva Museum of Natural History. On other days it is swarming with running children. Their excited calls "Look at that!", "Did you see this one?", "The kangaroo is my favorite", "I love the zebra" mingle with the educational attempt to assemble the horde and to explain to them "This is a rhinoceros". Then again a duet walks by. A child who compels his elderly companion to pronounce name after name. The surrounding order is seducing.

On little cardboards, distinction, class, race, gender, age and living space are mentioned for each single exhibited piece. In addition they inform on the species condition: the number of living examples, those that are threatened by extinction or have already disappeared.

I walk across the exhibition equipped with a pinhole camera. In view of all these eyes I feel observed, fixed, although I am the onlooker ("die Schaulustige"). A visitor asks me if I am trying to awaken the animal that I'm illuminating during minutes with a circuitous motion of a pocket light. No, but the shine of the skin and the fur of the animal radiates into the inside of the wooden box and leaves traces on the film.

The artfully arranged skin, fitted on a sculptural reproduction of the body in in the midst of the staged decor is the only sign of a former presence. The glass-eyed figures seem to constitute and conserve the projected stories and the imaginary constructions of their producers, rather than to give me access to a possible world of animals.

The inscriptions on the film interfere with each other, crossfade and blur but they don't mingle completely nor dissolve. This ‘Bestiary‘ does not create hybrid bodies, monsters or symbolic values. It uses lifeless reconstituted animals, which I take out of their arranged order to compose them on the filmstrip in a new way. In this composition they form a cheerful ensemble that is looking on us, as if they knew something about us.

Helen Follert
Geneva, the 24th of november 2009