Looking to the Pre-God's eyes // 2011

Look into your Pre-God’s eyes.

Once I wrote an essay, where I split all the human existence into three ages - the Totem age, the Myth age and the Text age. Humans of the Totem age are equal and native to stones, trees, fish, animals, birds… Humans were like everything else around them, though humans didn’t exist as humans. Humans were free of themselves and lived like fish, animals and birds – all free of themselves. However, unlike all the creatures mentioned above, humans have always been trying to find a reason for themselves. The search ended in everything that surrounded the human - a hawk, a beaver, a wolf, a deer or heron… We call the very choice of human’s ancestor a totem. Scientifically speaking, a totem is the specific name of an animal (but not strictly an animal, anything else can do) a tribe uses to link its origin to. This implies deification and mystical reverence for a totem and association with it as with something relative by blood.

Obviously the totem theme is not accidental here. You hold in your hands a copy of a special photo album. Main characters here are stuffed animals. But why take pictures of immobilized bodies instead of living creatures? Almost every photographer, no matter how ‘urbanized’ their interests may be, takes pictures of living animals and birds. However this is the first attempt to bring about an artistic idea via stuffed animals, though the latter already are works of art. So firstly we can ask - where does this idea come from? It turns out the motives are numerous, however only one most important. The author of the album Andrei Liankevich was impressed by the idea that a taxidermist through his work expresses his own subconciousness rather than the nature of the animal.

And it came out naturally that Andrei’s project is attractive to both of us but from different views. The photographer was captured by existential reasons for this idea, and I was captivated by its ontological reasons. Andrei’s idea explained to me the reasons why a human stuffs animals. Well, I mean it - where this strange whim comes from? Though there are enough themes with ‘miracles’ in the history. The author of the famous ‘Song about the Bison’ (‘Carmen de statura feritate ac venatione bisontis’) Mikola Husouski recalls that Pope Leo X wanted to have a body of bison stuffed and brought to Rome. However this is a story about entertainment, but we are talking about something more important. Here’s one more thing. Is a stuffed domestic goose less beautiful than a wild one, or is the posture of a hound inferior to wolf? So why aren’t there any stuffed domestic animals? We know some cases when domestic animals were ‘mummified’ after death. That was the case of the favorite mare (Elizabeth) of Peter the Great. But those are only pathological exceptions.

In my thinking there’s more intuition rather than historical facts. At the same time I’m almost sure that our continued interest in stuffed animals is unconsciously based on the fact that once they were human’s Pre-God’s. In other words, a stuffed animal is a kind of a totem that settles us down. Obviously, there are many other reasons why people make stuffed animals and others never stop admiring their work. However all these reasons say nothing about the depth of the abyss where sway the shadows of our forefathers and their deities.

I slowly look through the pictures and every now and then I get back to my favorite ones. While closely observing stuffed animals, birds or frogs I’m trying to figure out which one of them was my forefathers’ totem, and therefore which of them was my Pre-God?! And of course I never figured it out. Maybe its picture simply isn’t there. But what is more likely is that there’s no such god, because the Totem age has gone long time ago!

Still I like to think that I’ve looked into the eyes of my Pre-God. And I hope it recognized me, for I haven’t recognized it.

Valiantsin Akudovich