Giovanni Aloi, Speculative Taxidermy: Natural History, Animal Surfaces, and Art in the Anthropocene (New York: Columbia University Press, 2018), 328 pp., ISBN: 9780231180702 (hard cover), ISBN: 9780231180719 (Paperback)
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Speculative Taxidermy opens with a systematic breakdown of Degas’ sculpture Little Dancer Aged Fourteen that will change the way you see the piece forever. Among other things, Aloi draws our attention away from the multiple cast bronze reproductions of the piece and back to the original: a piece sculpted from a variety of organic materials like wax, wood, rope, and most importantly, a wig of human hair. Degas’ original sculpture was received with shock for many reasons, but one of the foremost was that this use of human hair “anticipated surrealist notions of the uncanny, the abject, and the object-assemblage by more than forty years” (p. 7). Aloi’s explanation of the Little Dancer’s affront to standards of representational realism in the late nineteenth century sets the stage for Speculative Taxidermy’s critical engagement with the always already politicized art of taxidermy in contemporary environments.
Speculative Taxidermyis a dynamic work with a strong narrative component....