Earlier in the year, I discovered Borges' Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius (see link to the right of the blog), in which the narrator discovered planted evidence of a planet he deemed fictitious in an encyclopedia. As his life went on, he found other references to the planet, and was struck by the detail of history, mythology, and language that had been built up to seemingly no purpose. By the end of the story, the purpose became clear, as the non-existent planet began a relentless yet violence-free occupation of Earth, supplanting "our" history, science, architecture, language and mythology with its own. In this bizarre, incredible tale, the humans of Earth conquered themselves, allowing a peaceful takeover by the small group of unknown people who had created the record of that false planet.
Since that discovery, I have been taken in by various artistic projects that seem similar in the vast expanse of their creative tendencies: for example the Codex Seraphinianus, where Luigi Serafini created just such an encyclopedic text, completely devoted to an imaginary planet, with its cultures, flora, fauna, and mythologies (etc), written in a language yet to be decoded (the text was created in 1976). Today, I have found yet another artist of far-flung, immense creativity, who is in the process of creating an unspoiled, hidden valley, deep in the Burmese Jungle, complete with new (to us) fauna, which he is sharing with the public only through his drawings and the specimens and notes that he has brought back from his journeys, in order to protect the species from the perils of human intervention.
(photo by Erik Hecht)
His business card, made for a show earlier this summer in Seattle, Washington, and which he will send you given an address, reads:
"Dr. Filbert Montauk of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has returned from a six year wilderness trip into some of the least hospitable lands in the world. The purpose of this trip was to discover unrecorded pockets of genetic diversity. Many thought he perished years ago; instead he has returned claiming to have found a lost valley hidden deep within the Burmese Jungle. He refuses to take anyone to his discovery; instead he has brought back journals and specimens. The zoological community has had a mixed reception to Dr. Montauk's findings. Scientists are insulted by his lack of cooperation, and many are suggesting foul play. Nevertheless, the doctor refuses to reveal the exact location of the valley in order to protect it from human intervention.
Montauk's journals and specimens are slowly being released to the public. He is meticulously editing his findings in order to prevent others from deciphering clues about the location of his lost paradise."
(The text is small here, sorry. It reads:
"Gallirallus Contraedes. I have observed many of these flightless birds racing through the trees of the valley. They travel in much the same way antelope do on the plains of Africa. When threatened they condense into a solid mass and run at tremendous speeds. I have never witnessed birds act in this way. Their density and speed is astounding. At night they cluster in secluded corners of the jungle. They look like red doughballs pressed against one another. Every once in a while one will peek its head out the top of the mass to keep watch.")
On his website, he explains further:
"The modern structure for protecting endangered animals is inherently synthetic. Many species are removed from their habitat, protected in simulated environments, and are reintroduced when mature. With Unnatural Selection I'm projecting a potential future for conservation. As more fragile animals are lost, it's suggested we turn to bio-engineering to create new more adaptable creatures for the modern world, or alter those that currently exist to function in a new way. For decades scientists have been bioengineering our crops and our livestock; they could eventually turn to bioengineering biodiversity."
He creates sketches, stories of discovery, mating calls and habits, lifestyle, and makes clay and faux-fur "specimens".
Installation for "Unnatural Selection"
You can watch him at work in this video by Erik Hecht:
(Music by Mckenzie Stubbert; he gives additional thanks to Alex Walsh and Celeste Olds).
at $10, this is a steal, and there are only 25 of them. Handmade, signed, and numbered...Dr. Mauntak's Journal, Volume One:
(3.5" x 5")
His webpage is here, and his Flickr page is here.