Do you want to see the fantastically rare, winged goat-deer? Or the extremely venomous 12-legged snake? Or the semi-human centaur-gorilla?!
The Science Museum presents Joan Fontcuberta’s discoveries of weird and wonderful natural phenomena!
The first section displays Fontcuberta and friend Pere Formiguera’s incredible findings in the form of photographs, documents, sound recordings and taxidermy, of the 20th century teratologist, Professor Peter Ameisenhaufen. Included in this selection of incredible species is the myodirifera colubercauda, a 35-40cm creature with a rodent’s body and a reptilian tail. Similarly fascinating is the hermaphrotaurus autositarius, a goat-like animal with two bodies fused at the head. It has both male and female sexual organs, which frequently results in it having sexual relations with itself. Included is a recording of this animal’s cry which sounds something like ‘pshhhht-gong’. The professor also uncovered skeletal remains of this animal which are more than 200,000 years old.
The solenoglypha polipodida is not an animal to be reckoned with. If encountered, it can resemble an ordinary grass snake. But be warned, it actually has 6 pairs of legs with extraordinary muscular development enabling it to scurry at an incredible speed. Further, as the professor describes,
“When facing its prey it becomes completely immobile and emits a very sharp whistle which paralyses it’s enemy. It maintains this immobility for as long as the predator needs to secrete the gastric juices required to digest it’s prey, which can vary between 2 minutes and 3 hours, as determined by the size of the victim… Unlike known reptiles it never rests after eating. Quite to the contrary, it sets off on a wild chase which is only interrupted for the purpose of defecation. ”
Prepare to marvel at these wonderfully exotic creatures!
Moving through the exhibition, on display are photographs of incredulously anthropomorphic plants, vertiginous landscapes and vivid constellations.
a plant with fur?! who knew
Soon we are confronted with another discovery case akin to that of Professor Ameisenhaufen. Photographs of a startling archaeological excavation reveal the discovery made by Father Jean Fontana in 1947 of fossilised remains of a previously unknown species, which he named the Hydropithecus alpinus. As the exhibition catalogue explains, “the fossils greatly resemble the dugong and the now-extinct Steller’s sea cow, yet have curiously human features. They have now been authenticated by anthro-palaeontologists and are thought to be early mer-people…”
Father Jean Fontana’s discovery
Perhaps most impressive are Fontcuberta’s photographs which capture monks in Karelia, a region straddling Finland and Russia, performing miracles. In the interdenominational Valhamönde Monastery of the region, monks are said to learn how to perform miracles as part of their training. But how miraculous in itself, that the artist was able to capture a monk performing correlative deconstruction (walking through walls) or of dolphinsurfing!
The miracle of correlative deconstruction
The miracle of dolphinsurfing
OK… so to all you sceptics out there, yes, it is all a hoax. The conceptual artist Joan Fontcuberta fabricated every scenario from top to bottom. Yes, Professor Ameisenhaufen is a fictional character and none of those animals ever existed, and yes, the fleshy and hairy plants are actually sculptures made of wire.
To those who believed it (or part of it), I’m sorry to burst your bubble! But why did you believe it? Because its in the science museum, obviously! What kind of museum presents false information?
But why do we have this knee-jerk reaction of just believing in the authenticity and validity of what is presented? This is the question which the artist poses through his wildly imaginative scientific scenarios.
He makes an important point. Why is our critical faculty dampened when we observe something in a glass case on a plinth? Why do we just believe in it? Because we want to. We want to believe that somewhere out there in a far away place, or in a far away age something as extraordinary as a solenoglypha polipodida is waiting to paralyse its next prey.