A Cultural Life of Polar Bears
This book is a study of polar bears, hunted as trophies, then stuffed and exhibited in museums and private homes. It is based on the extensive research of contemporary artists Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir and Mark Wilson, who between 2002 and 2004 undertook a survey of taxidermied polar bears in the UK.
The book is a lavishly illustrated account, including unpublished archival photographs of hunting in the Arctic at the turn of the century, stories of the bears' long journeys through the museum and beyond, along with photographs by the artists of the bears in their current locations. Alongside the visual material, essays by leading academics, Dr. Steven Baker, Michelle Henning and Dr. Garry Marvin, who discuss more generally topics of taxidermy, trophy-hunting and the depiction of animals in art.
Artist and writer Patricia Ellis contributes a semi-fictional account that takes the artists' research as a starting point.
An introduction by Lucy Byatt, director of Spike Island, Bristol, charts the evolution of the project, including the installation of a number of polar bears at Spike Island, and its photographic documentation, which travelled to various museums and art galleries in 2006 and 2007. As a historical document and an artistic account, this book charts the uneasy relationship between the wild and its depiction in our museums and galleries, with the title Nanoq: flat out and bluesome referencing the melancholy that these majestic creatures, taken from their natural habitats, evoke in the viewer.