For someone pursuing studies in archives and aiming to work in a museum with a collection of taxidermy (and who is currently working through all the thinking and reading one does at the beginning of a new academic venture), Richard Ross’s Museology is as thought-provoking as it is fun to look at. For one, I appreciate picking up on the artist’s indignation toward museum preservation and the quality of these specimens and displays. Also, an LA Times article from 1989 discusses Ross’s desire to “make museums into magical places,” and I can’t help thinking about what that aspiration means now, 25 years later. I grew up thinking museums, particularly those with taxidermy on display, were magical. I didn’t need convincing, but maybe my peers did when we’d go on school field trips, and maybe young museum-goers now are bored when they see taxidermy in museums. Maybe they want digital and interactive displays. As the role of technology in museums becomes larger, will the group of students visiting museums now come to a point where they value museum taxidermy and wish for it to be present again once it (if it) is replaced by computers and screens?
Anyway, thinking of the visual aspects of these photographs–I probably don’t need to profess again my attraction to the square/straight-on/centered aesthetic. (It occurred to me this morning that this aesthetic is, essentially… Instagram, ha.) I even love the more “boring” pictures, the banality of some of the subjects being photographed, especially knowing now that this series was probably one of the first of its kind. I imagine its creation influenced numerous emerging artists (can you see hints of Klaus Pichler?). Some of these photographs look like they could have been taken today, particularly the rhino image below. I always think it’s funny when older work looks so contemporary, when styles seem to reemerge.
Sometimes I’m embarrassed to find out about an artist or a project of theirs that has existed for decades. Like, am I the last one to know about these photographs that fit so well in the vein of my interests? Museology was published by The Aperture Foundation the year I was born, many of these photographs taken years before that. But isn’t that the magic of the internet? How cool that I can access these images that were made long before digitization was commonly practiced. 70 images, by the way, all on the artist’s website. That’s one plus of this digital age.
Visit artist's site: richardross.net