Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Women's Studies and Feminist Research

Supervisor

Verwaayen, Kim

2nd Supervisor

Keep, Christopher

Joint Supervisor

Abstract

Beginning in 2004, the Minnesota Association of Rogue Taxidermists began an art movement of taxidermied animal sculptures that challenged conventional forms of taxidermied objects massively produced and displayed on an international scale. In contrast to taxidermied ‘specimens’ found in museums, taxidermied ‘exotic’ wildlife decapitated and mounted on hunters' walls, or synthetic taxidermied heads bought in department stores, rogue taxidermy artists create unconventional sculptures that are arguably antithetical to the ideologies shaped by previous generations: realism, colonialism, masculinity. As a pop-surrealist art movement chiefly practiced among women artists, rogue taxidermy artists follow an ethical mandate to never kill animals for the purposes of art and often display their sculptures in ways that are self-reflexive of speciesism and express criticisms of anthropocentrism.

Through an intersectional feminist lens and alongside critical insights from (and debates within) postcolonialism, deconstruction, and affect theory, I analyze the art pieces created by Sarina Brewer, Angela Singer, Polly Morgan, Scott Bibus, and Robert Marbury. In doing so, I explore the ethical ambiguities of using postmortem animal bodies in an art movement that is informed by animal rights, and also discuss the complexity of animal-human relationships in the face of human conceptualized impressions of life and death. Brushing up against the history of public autopsies and other forms of body preservation, I look to the ways in which bodies are made ‘taxidermic’ through violence, trauma, objectification, commodification, bio-engineered artificiality, extinction, and the discriminatory practices that represented certain (animal and human) bodies as ‘unruly.’ Tackling the frames that produce ‘taxidermic’ bodies (as exposable and exploitable skins), I challenge the anthropocentrism foundational to human thought and highlight the ways that humans produce and perpetuate hollowed out crypts of meaning as it applies to animality. Essentially, this project attempts to undermine anthropocentric worldviews that construct humans as separate and unique from what is understood and described as the ‘nonhuman,’ and, also, invites readers to confront and acknowledge how vulnerability and mortality are shared among humans (animals) and other nonhuman beings.

Available for download on Friday, March 01, 2019

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