go to shoping basket

In her Promethean Boldness series of works Nikola Irmer has concentrated on a seemingly forgotten collection of bird specimens in the Natural History Museum in Berlin.

The bird storeroom in Berlin houses a vast number of specimens, relegated there as they are no longer used in the collections on public display. The room measures about 20 by 15 meters and contains hundreds of glass cabinets full of prepared birds.

It is hard to understand why these amazing specimens lead such a reclusive shelf life. Nikola Irmer became fascinated by the haphazard arrangements that resulted from cramming the specimens together in a seemingly random way. Her attention to the individual birds transforms them and gives them new meaning.

Primarily during the 19th century, driven by the pursuit of knowledge and the Darwinian search for new species and new ways of classifying them, a vast number of animals were hunted, killed, shipped to Europe, prepared as specimens and assembled in the collections. (Rumour has it that countless crates from expeditions as renowned as Darwin's have never been opened and are languishing in the attics and basements of Europe's Natural History Museums.) The animals' individual bodies were of interest primarily as representatives of their species. The process of preparation ('stuffing' or 'pickling') turned the animal into a specimen and as such it carried meaning only in the context of a sequence or a system of taxonomy, homology etc.

This function has now been supplanted by new contemporary ways of determining species; so the large number of superfluous specimens are piled and crammed into the storeroom's glass cabinets, inaccessible to the public. The resulting fairly chaotic and haphazard arrangement creates new, unintended and evocative connections.

In many specimens the signs of age (be it that they are faded, dusty or moth-eaten) vie with the taxidermist's art of attempting to make them seem as life-like as possible.

In the process of drawing and painting formal relationships, rhythms and patterns begin to emerge, narrative and even psychological scenarios amongst groups can suggest themselves, creating echoes of a buried memory of Western civilization's ways of acquiring knowledge about nature.

Register and Login Subscribe to our newsletter Members Login Members Registration
Our website makes use of non-invasive (no personal data) cookies to provide you with an enhanced user experience. By continuing to use the site, you consent to this.Close More
The UK Law now requires us to get consent from you for the use of cookies.

A cookie is a small file containing text and numbers generated by the website and passed from your browser back to our website when you revisit the site.

A cookie is used here to allow you to navigate the site, log in etc. Without this cookie (called a session cookie), this site would not work properly and so this has already been set.

We use a popular statistics tool called Google Analytics which uses non invasive cookies to allow us to find out how effective our marketing is, based on referencing how you got to our website (search engine, direct, or from another site etc).

We use an animation based rotating image which uses a cookie to know which image was last displayed so that as you move from page to page you are not seeing the same image every time.

We can also make use of third party services such as video clip players which can set cookies, for example to enable them to know that you part played a video clip previously, or to store customised settings such as brightness or volume. Close