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Indepth Arts News:

"Fauna Secreta: Joan Fontcuberta and Pere Formiguera"
2000-06-17 until 2000-07-30
Presentation House Gallery
North Vancouver, BC, CA

Spanish artists Joan Fontcuberta and Pere Formiguera have created Fauna Secreta, an exhibition documenting the research of German biologist, Dr. Peter Ameisenhaufen. The installation adopts the characteristic appearance of zoology and natural science museums, presenting photographs, radiographs, outdoor sketches, maps, zoological cards, texts, sound, and more, as evidence of the existence of these (it seems to us) rather monstrous beasts.

About 1987 Fontcuberta and Formiguera apparently made a startling discovery. During a visit to Scotland, in the attic of a house in Glasgow, they found the archive of Dr. Ameisenhaufen who had died in a car crash in 1955. After further research into the life and work of the Doctor, they learned that his discoveries, which document what appears to be many previously-unknown, bizarre genetic mishaps, had provoked great debate and controversy during his time. But can any of it be trueNULL

Solenoglypha Polipodida is a snake-like creature, with twelve feet, that is supposed to be able to paralyze its prey with a high-pitched whistle. And there’s a squirrel with webbed feet and a snake tail – Myodorifera colubercauda. There is Micostrium vulgaris, a menacing weapon-swinging mollusk, and Centaurus Neandertalensis, which Dr. Ameisenhaufen didn't known whether to treat as a semi-humanoid, as a living myth, or simply as a zoological specimen. As one reviewer put it: This modern-day bestiary is every bit as fascinating as the strange illuminations of the medieval age, and all the more disconcerting as the camera seems to bear undeniable witness to the beasties’ meanderings. (Melissa Rombout, Boston).

Fauna Secreta challenges our comfort zone regarding notions of 'scientific truth' and the 'objectivity' of scientific (and photographic) enquiry. This has been consistently at issue for Joan Fontcuberta. Both his artistic and theoretical activity focus on issues of representation, knowledge, memory, science, truthfulness, ambiguity and trompe-l'oeil. Among the many books on his work, several are outstanding: Herbarium (1985), Fauna (1988) and Sputnik (1997). In 1993 the I.V.A.M. museum released the most comprehensive publication of his work, Historia Artificial. He has been author or editor of a dozen books on aspects on the history, aesthetics and pedagogy of photography.

In 1988 Joan Fontcuberta received the David Octavious Hill Medal, awarded by the Fotografisches Akademie GDL in Germany to acknowledge his significant career in photography. In 1994 he was appointed Officer in the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture. In 1998 he was awarded the National Prize in Photography given by the Spanish Ministry of Culture. Fontcuberta was the artistic director for the International Photography Festival in Arles in 1996.

Fauna Secreta is curated by Sylvain Campeau and circulated by Occurrence, Montreal. It previously toured internationally to galleries and museums including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Museum of National Science in Barcelona. The show is accompanied by a comprehensive book on the Fauna Secreta project, published by Photovision in 1999; this will be available in the Gallery Bookstore.

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