By R. Malamud
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Extra info for An Introduction to Animals and Visual Culture
Do his cultural audiences really know him? What do they know of him? People like to look at animals and like to make animals do weird things. Elephants are made to paint pictures with paintbrushes taped to their trunks, chickens are made to play the piano, monkeys are made to do acrobatics and parachute jumps. In the age of mechanical reproduction, people reproduce animals a great deal. This may be regarded as an abrogation of the animals’ fecundity, especially with regard to rabbits, whose reproductive prowess is a central aspect of their cultural reputation.
Like Emily Dickinson, Moore enjoys putting her reader off guard, pulling the carpet out from under us with her syntactical twists and turns. Visible, invisible: which? Sometimes visible, sometimes not? (If so, when visible and when invisible? ) Is the jellyfish somehow, metaphysically, visible and invisible at the same time? Do we see some but not all of the animal? (If so, what parts? indd 19 4/4/2012 11:58:11 AM 20 An Introduction to Animals and Visual Culture we can always see, and some we never see?
The excessively pampered dog or the ingeniously tortured elephant supplants any inclination human viewers may have had to consider an animal more critically, more honestly. The nature of a select few animals’ fame suggests something about the animal as individual, which is a rare occurrence. While animals have a range of prominent functions in human culture, that prominence usually plays out in a way that is depersonalized (deanimalized) and in which the individual animal’s integrity is effaced.
An Introduction to Animals and Visual Culture by R. Malamud