On February 25, an excerpt of a letter appeared on the taxidermy blog Ravishing Beasts, in which the writer confesses: “When I see taxidermy I get severe panic attacks. I have no idea why. It started when I was 4 and I don’t remember a point in my life when I wasn’t scared of taxidermy. It’s lead [sic] to extreme paranoia.” The letter writer is not alone in her dread of taxidermy’s spirited but motionless denizens. Taxidermy appears to us as something “mysterious, unsettling, provocative, and overwhelmingly visually magnetic”; it embodies numerous contradictory states—alive/not-alive, animal/not-animal, present/absent, life/death, beauty/repulsion, natural/artifice. Taxidermied animals, writes author, scholar, and occasional taxidermy curator Rachel Poliquin, exist “just beyond full elucidation.” The Breathless Zoo takes as its subject just this “beyond” to and from which we are simultaneously and so powerfully attracted and repulsed.
| The Breathless Zoo: Taxidermy and the Cultures of Longing
A work of critical taxidermy by Rachel Poliquin
Penn State Press , 2012
Reviewed by Danielle McManus