July 3, 2013 § Leave a comment
Count Drago’s uncanny simulacra remind us of the kinship between taxidermy and photography, which arrests the flight of time, fixing the moment forever. The movie’s bargain-basement special effects literalize this metaphoric connection: when a cat laps up some brandy spiked with the count’s elixir of death, it freeze-frames blurrily, a time fossil trapped in the amber of a filmed instant. Oliver Wendell Holmes took note of this connection in the art’s infancy: in his 1859 essay, “The Stereoscope and the Stereograph,” Holmes announces the coming of the Matrix reality we now inhabit, where reproductions and originals are increasingly indistinguishable.
Form is henceforth divorced from matter. In fact, matter as a visible object is of no great use any longer, except as the mold on which form is shaped. Give us a few negatives of a thing worth seeing, taken from different points of view, and that is all we want of it. … Matter in large masses must always be fixed and dear; form is cheap and transportable. We have got the fruit of creation now, and need not trouble ourselves with the core. … Men will hunt all curious, beautiful, grand objects, as they hunt the cattle in South America, for their skins, and leave the carcasses as of little worth.
The count’s problem is that it’s sometime around 1815, photography hasn’t been invented yet, and he’s trying to create the “instant suspension of life” that photography will soon make possible—taxidermy with the snap of a shutter, skinning the image to preserve it for eternity. read more
PHOTOGRAPH: Kaitlin Rebesco