You know how bad it looks when taxidermy goes wrong (and if you don't, check our article). But are any of us doing anything to improve it? Artist, sculptor, jeweller and self-professed animal lover Lisa Black is, with her 'augmented' animal cyborgs.
Combining an interest in the animal kingdom with ideas of a future where technology and biology work together in synchronicity, her Fixed creations fuse taxidermied animals with mechanical components – provoking the viewer to examine their ideas on the word ‘natural’.
What first inspired you to start fusing animals with technological components?
My first thought was of a mechanical horse, so I went about trying to source the closest thing I could find – a taxidermied fawn. I can't say that the concept came from one particular place, but I'm inspired by our culture and ongoing technological progression as a species. The fusing of mechanical and organic seems to be a concept that is constantly being explored.
You refer to your creations as 'fixed' – does that mean that you only add implements to animals that were damaged to begin with?
Yes. For example, my first piece, The Fixed Fawn, has had mechanical parts replace several points of damage; the eye and leg were severely damaged when I found it on an online auction.
Your creations have been described as “creepy” and “massively fucked up” – did you expect for people to have such negative reactions?
Art should be offered as a visual aid to make people think and feel, to explore different concepts, and to encourage discussion – both for and against the subject matter. I'm not surprised by the negative reactions; it is confronting to see a lifelike animal altered in such a way at first. However, taxidermy is just the shell of an animal. The meat, eyes, bone – all that makes it living is no longer there. It's no more alive than a cowhide rug or a pair of leather sneakers. When people realise this and go beyond first impressions, the concept can be more freely considered. Also, I’ve never received any negative feedback in regards to the reptiles, just the cute and furry creatures.
Ideally, what would you like people to take away from your work?
That the fusion of mechanical and organic is nothing new. I find it fascinating that mechanical alterations on man are considered a marvel of mankind, but visually, the same alterations on animals are cruel and “massively fucked up”.
Would you ever want to work with bigger animals, if the resources were available? Certainly around London you can find examples of stags, zebras and even lions in taxidermy stores.
I have comes across intact bigger animals, but I'm inspired by what I could do to fix them. If I find a larger animal in need of this, I would love to work on it.
You've worked on mammals, reptiles and birds, but as yet, no fish or aquatic animals. Is there a reason for this?
No, I just haven't found a sea creature in need of repair.
What are you working on at the moment? Where do you plan on taking the concept next?
I have just finished working on a few pieces for Denmark’s Gallery Wolfsen, where I’ll be exhibiting a large ram skull, along with a few different pieces including a new collection of hourglasses, complete with gold-plated animal skulls. The hourglasses are filled with black sand, and the viewer can turn the them and watch as the golden skulls are slowly consumed by the sand, which adds an interactive momento mori element – the contemplation of finite time, life, death and beauty.
You can see more of Lisa Black's work at lisablackcreations.com.