Present Signs, Dead Things: Indexical Authenticity and Taxidermy’s Nonabsent Animal
Abstract

ABSTRACT:

Contemporary art’s recent turn to taxidermy as a sculptural medium aims both to unsettle earlier traditions of realist taxidermy and to allow new explorations of the troubling authenticity derived from the recycling of animal bodies. Developing an analogy between the preserved and mounted animal skin and Roland Barthes’s realist account of the photograph as an emanation of the referent, this essay turns from art to literature to introduce a third, mediating term, dermography, in response to the insistent presence of skin in the questions raised by the new taxidermy. The authors propose the ontological category of the nonabsent animal as an aid to understanding a temporally defined punctum associated with an authenticity grounded in the index.