10 April 2009

Fire and Disorder

Last week I stopped by the Adamson Gallery to see “Touched by Fire”, a collection of works by French photographer Martin d’Orgeval. One year ago, a fire destroyed Deyrolle, a famous taxidermy shop in Paris. D’Orgeval was there to photograph the shop after the fire, capturing scenes of half-charred animals amidst the disordered shop.

At first glance, the images appear to serve primarily as a documentary record of a point in time. While items of furniture and other debris are piled up haphazardly, it is clear that someone has already come through and begun the process of cleaning up.

However, d’Orgeval focuses on some particularly intriguing subjects wthin the chaos. In particular, I was intrigued by an image titled Taurotragus derbianus. From a distance it appeared to be an orderly cabinet of curiosities, with small animals and other specimens placed across several red shelves. However, upon closer inspection, one can see that the shadows on the red wall are actually burn marks and that the animals have been distorted by fire damage. In another series of images titled Taxonomy, the orderly, scientific arrangement of butterflies in glass cases has been disturbed and obscured by broken glass and a dark cloudy film left by the smoke. 

The intent of the naturalist is to impose order on nature, through classification and organized display. But in this case, the fire has destroyed that order and returned some of the chaos that is a part of the natural world.

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