We humans like to think we’re superior to other animals but I suspect we’re just another species with a few clever skills. Specimen Box considers our species’ tendency to overestimate itself within the biological world. Our “superiority complex” influences our attitude and behavior towards other creatures, and to the environment we all share.
Most, but not all, of the “specimens” are animals. Many are not what they seem. Specimen Box offers every creature an equal opportunity – scale, color, familiarity no longer matter.
The Specimen Box provides the occassion to observe the human animal, the only living creature in the entire installation. Viewers in the Specimen Box become “specimens” themselves, a source of fascination, perhaps even enlightenment for others. Everything depends on who is looking at whom.
The ability of human beings to reason, communicate, create and use technology makes it easy to convince ourselves that we are fundamentally different from other species. But evidence suggests we differ from animals only in the scope of these capacities, not in their intrinsic nature. Emotion is another characteristic that can be added to this list.
The faces in Unmet Friends are those of living animals, including mammals, reptiles, amphibia and fish, in whom an emotional expression appears recognizable. An anthropocentric interpretation is difficult to avoid. Our understanding of another creature, human or otherwise, is inescapably biased, first by our underlying human nature, and then by our individual perceptions: we see what we want to see. Although an animal’s facial expression is easily observed, its meaning is often enigmatic or ambiguous. Unmet Friends invites us to question not only animal faces, but human ones too.
Mark Kessell has exhibited nationally at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, George Eastman House, International Center for Photography, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and Princeton University. Kessell has also shown and worked extensively in Germany and Switzerland. This is his second solo exhibition at Kim Foster Gallery.