Maybe this is all why I like taxidermy so much. No one would ever mistake a mounted animal for a live one, no matter how intently the taxidermist tucks his eyelids and paints his nostrils. No matter how lifelike the pose. I mean, which—to borrow a phrase—is the authentic animal?
From Magritte, we know neither of those is the authentic animal. That both are photographs, and thus they’re subjective representations of the authentic animal. The taxidermy mount is more authentic than a photograph—not only for its three dimensions, but also for its materials. Here is the actual skin of the animal! And yet we all know taxidermy is false. It requires a lie to be best appreciated. This mount looks (but is not) the most real. Blue ribbon!
On the wall of my living room, hanging right above the sofa, is the mounted head of the elk N’s father shot a couple years ago. Maybe you’ve seen it. He didn’t have the wall space for it and we do, so it’s on long-term loan (though I’m afraid it won’t be coming with us to Alabama). I’d never seen a real, live elk before we got the mount, and of course I still haven’t. More importantly, though, I never would have seen this particular elk were it not for a taxidermist in South Dakota who mounted the head. The animal would have died and been forgotten by everyone but the man responsible. Taxidermy then, is, yes, an act of commemoration for the hunter, of fetishization maybe, but for everyone else it can be a form of introduction. A limited and some may argue unethical form of introduction, but an introduction all the same. A chance at an encounter.
Than again, maybe this is the authentic animal:
(Ophelia by Idiots)
One thought on “Two Ways of Looking at Falseness: The End”
A brilliant set of posts. Thank you.
In his essay “On Bullshit,” Harry G. Frankfurt does an exceptionally good job of unpacking, not only the concept of bullshit, but also the word “lie.” He writes, “To begin with, whenever a person deliberately misrepresents anything, he must inevitably be misrepresenting his own state of mind. It is possible, of course, for a person to misrepresent that alone—for instance, by pretending to have a desire or a feeling which he does not actually have. But suppose that a person, whether by telling a lie or in another way, misrepresents something else. Then he necessarily misrepresents at least two things. He misrepresents whatever he is talking about—i.e., the state of affairs that is the topic or referent of his discourse—and in doing this he cannot avoid misrepresenting his own mind as well. Thus someone who lies about how much money he has in his pocket both gives an account of the amount of money in his pocket and conveys that he believes this account. If the lie works, then its victim is twice deceived, having one false belief about what is in the liar’s pocket and another false belief about what is in the liar’s mind.” I would like to posit, then, that taxidermy, the memoir, and professional wrestling—and I think this has been your point all along—are somehow both more and less than lies. It’s not just an artist lying to a viewer/reader; it’s an artist suggesting a lie, and the viewer/reader repeating (and believing) that lie. There is a falseness within us which makes the falseness without us true.
Thanks again, this is a really nice blog.