Duck, mice and hare skeletons are objects commonly found in natural history museums. At forst glance, the objects created by South Korean artist Hyungkoo Lee look deceptively real. Its only when we look closer that we notice something's not right. The objects seem familiar, but theyre no ordinary birds, mice and hares.
The artist has taken well-known cartoon figures and reconstructed real-looking skeletons from them, generating their pseudo-realistic three-dimensionality from drawings.
The seemingly authentic skeletons suggest Bugs Bunny, Tom & Jerry, Roadrunner & Wile E. Coyote, Donald Duck and his 3 nephews may really have existed. They have been excavated from our imaginations like fossils. And our perception and imagination have brought them to life.
Anatomy and Reconstruction
see also: http://www.nmb.bs.ch/anas_animatus_mittel.jpg
Why is a natural history museum showing contemporary art? The approaches and methods adopted by Hyungkoo Lee in his work are similar to those used in the world of natural science.
Comparative anatomy studies the physical structure of different animal species, looking for similarities and differences, and the traditional biological division of animals into species and the animal kingdom is based on the resulting principles.
A reconstruction involves the imaginative recreation of something previously unknown. It is therefore not just the process but the end result too. In order to carry out a reconstruction, scientists use various types of information such as bones, the place of discovery, tracks or even merely circumstantial evidence. Much however, remains hypothetical.
Hypothesis & Facts
H.Lee compares the (invented) cartoon characters with real animals. Scientists reconstruct found fragments, such as fossils, on the basis of accepted principles which they build into the reconstruction. Both therefore reconstruct a realistic picture of an animal based on hypothesis as well as fact. Speculation thus alternates with reality and the viewer fills in any missing information with the help of his /her imagination. This is also true ofdinosaurs: they too can only be brought to life through the imagination becaues the facts alone are insufficient to recreate a complete picture of their lives.
With Animatus, H. Lee mooves in the opposite direction to natural science: whereas natural scientists begin with the individual bones, reconstructing first the skeleton and gradually building up a complete picture of the animal, H. Lee reconstructs the skeleton from a drawing.
this fictional reconstruction throws up some interesting questions: what is real and not real in a museum? How real are dinosaur reconstructions? We dont know whether to trust our eyes or our reason, and boundaries suddenly start to disappear...
In the first part of the exhibition the museum tempts to go a step further. At the artists request and as a systematic development of the project, our technicans attempt to reconstruct the animals from their skeletons. Ideally, one would expect to get back to a cartoon character. The results are technican's work studies that have flowed directly from the process. The new objects are charming and perplexing and here too we want to give the visitor free reign to his/her imagination.
By agreement with the artist, the museums scientists and lab technicans are to undertake an investigation of the skeleton.
The bones of Canis Latrans Animatus are to serve as the basis for a scientific reconstruction. In a process similar to that used by palaeontologists, a picture of the living creature will be created from the 'unknown' fragments, in this case the bones. We would like to find out what this animal, unknown to us, would have looked like.
Its muscles and body shape will be reconstituted on the basis of scientific methodology and assumptions. First of all the bones will be assembled. Based on their shape, we can assume the animal had an upright posure. As in classic anatomical reconstructions, the individual muscle cords will be attached to the skeleton using Plasticene. Their length and thickness will depend on their function, which can be ascertained from the muscle attachment points on the bones. The muscles will then be covered by skin. A view inside will allow people to see the work that has been done.
The result is only a blueprint, a working model. As with all reconstructions, there will be a lot of questions and reflections that cannot be answered with scientific certainty as we are dealing here with a creature that is not real.
article source: Natural History Museum Basel
1969 born in Pohang, Korea
2002 M.F.A. Yale University, School of Art, New Heaven, CT, USA
1998 B.F.A. Hong-Ik University, College of Fine Art, Seoul, Korea
2008 Animatus, ARARIO Gallery, New York, USA
2007 Korean Pavillion, Biennale of Venice, Italy
2006 Animatus, ARARIO Gallery, Cheonan, Korea
2004 The Objectuals, Sungkok Art Museum, Seoul, Korea