Taxidermy, once the province of natural history and dedicated to the pursuit of lifelike realism, has recently resurfaced in the world of contemporary art,culture, and interior design. In Speculative Taxidermy, Giovanni Aloi offers a comprehensive mapping of the discourses and practices that have enabled the emergence of taxidermy in contemporary art. Drawing on the speculative turn in philosophy and recovering past alternative histories of art and materiality from a biopolitical perspective, Aloi theorizes speculative taxidermy: a powerful interface that unlocks new ethical and political opportunities in human-animal relationships and speaks to how animal representation conveys the urgency of climate change, capitalist exploitation, and mass extinction.
A resolutely nonanthropocentric take on the materiality of one of the most controversial mediums in art, this approach relentlessly questions past and present ideas of human separation from the animal kingdom. It situates taxidermy as a powerful interface between humans and animals, rooted in a shared ontological and physical vulnerability. Carefully considering a select number of key examples including the work of Nandipha Mntambo, Maria Papadimitriou, Mark Dion, Berlinde De Bruyckere, Roni Horn, Oleg Kulik, Steve Bishop, Snæbjörnsdóttir/Wilson, and Cole Swanson,Speculative Taxidermy contextualizes the resilient presence of animal skin in the gallery space as a productive opportunity to rethink ethical and political stances in human-animal relationships.