Posted in biology, museum

Mammals that might have been

Jason Salavon is a new-media artist whose solo show at Ronald Feldman Gallery opened last week in New York. He is also a research fellow in the Computation Institute and assistant professor in Visual Arts at the University of Chicago. Rebecca Horne of Discover Magazine asked him last week about his image, Generic Mammal Skull, featured in the current show.

RH: Where did this idea of creating a generic mammal come from?

JS: I’ve been interested in evolutionary processes for a long time and wanted to explore them in my own way. I was specifically interested in representing fictional, imagined forms, things missed or skipped by evolution, in a rich, historical way. Combining that with a renewed interest in 17th century Dutch still life made for a challenging project.

RH: Do you decide what percentages of what mammal to use, or does the software determine that? If you decided, how did you determine which mammals to use, and what percentages? For example- why wild boar instead of blue whale?

JS: I designed four very accurate, high resolution models (bear, human, baboon, wild boar), hoping to capture much of the large land mammal “design space.” Percentages in the photographs were chosen for visceral impact as well as representing opposed regions in the “design space.” There is a parent project, a video animation of sorts, that covers a larger range of possibilities.

Courtesy Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York

Generic Mammal Skull (21% baboon, 18% bear, 17% human, 44% wild boar), 2010



Beth Kelley is an applied & digital anthropologist with an overall interest in how people engage with and are impacted by their environments and vice versa. This has manifested itself in many ways, by looking at creativity, playful spaces, built environments, and environmental enrichment, sustainability, design research, and integrative and collaborative models of learning such as through play and hands-on learning.