In looking at Darwin’s notes from the Voyage of the Beagle, I was drawn to an incident that occurred at St Paul’s Rocks, off the coast of Brazil, when the expedition discovered a species of bird “…so tame you could walk up to them and hit them with a stick.”
The manner of this discovery and the history of our acquisition of knowledge led me to contemplate the ramifications of our actions. It is still common practice to collect specimens of new, rare or endangered species to verify and prove their existence. the most accepted method of collection involves killing that animal.
At what point does the animal exist? When it is dead it is proven to exist. Paradoxically this means that specific animal ceases to exist. Yet unidentified and alive, it doesn’t technically exist.
These implications of discovery and the impact our actions have over a prolonged period led to the question that drove this work: at what cost do we achieve knowledge?
The exhibition Discovery: Re-imagining Darwin’s World can be seen using the link below.