December 13, 2004

The real true rhino

Albrecht Duerer undertook to document a rhinoscerous, to lift himself above that herd of fanciful artists who merely expressed themselves at the rhino's expense. (Thanks to Ernst Gombrich, Art and Illusion, for the example.) This is the result:

Durer Rhino.jpg

I have been thinking recently about documentation as part of the process of seeing, knowing, being a private thinker with public responsibilites and ambitions. Many people make an effort to document their lives, ("I saw a rhino yesterday"), and the standards for this activity are not at all clear. We say: documentation should be objective, in one breath. Albrecht's rhino fails the test. But in the next breath we acknowledge that any effort to nail the rhino would be objectivity-challenged in some way: a choice of still photo versus a video, a male rhino rather than a female, from this distance rather than closer in -- the highest resolution photo begins to look like a bundle of interested choices, and we start to lose track of our standard. And yet there is a way in which documenting a life differs from emoting about a life.

Posted by shea0017 at December 13, 2004 11:42 PM