Writing Art History Since 2002

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Re-imagining the existence of fauna


Last week a tragic situation occurred, the dying of a species and yet another scourge placed on our environment. The last male white Rhinoceros, named Sudan, died. And while there are still females left, the future of the species has been reduced to a sperm sample in a test-tube — the last surviving chance to keep the species alive in the future, if we leave it up to conventional means. While the biological future of the species might be dead, the memory can still be shared across the globe. While we may never be able to help the species recover as has been done in the past, there are alternatives to keeping the legacy of the majestic beast upheld.




Looking at the concept art of the box office masterpiece, Marvel’s ‘Black Panther’, which was released last month— we see Vance Kovacs Cybernetic Rhino’s either fully created out of synthetic parts or organic beings augmented by robotics. The concept art has more of an industrial feel, than that of a traditional animal, but if the robots were made to look and feel more realistic, would definitely instil more empathy in those who disagree with the topic. What is the future if not enhanced in some way, and while biology in the past has been at the forefront of modernising the world, the information age we find has revolutionised the way we understand our world, and the denizens that populate it, fauna or flora.

Considering Kovacs’ work, humanity could dismiss the use of ‘real’ animals in zoos and aquariums and offer something more synthetic, possibly fauna with robotics or robots that look, act, and feel like their biological counterparts. This could eliminate the need to take creatures from their natural habitat while also offering the educational effect that zoos and aquariums have on patrons and especially children. This idea harkens to a quote from the film Babylon A.D released in 2008, in which Aurora, the little girl, makes a remark about tigers she sees, to which the protagonist of the film replies: “they’re second generation clones and not real tigers, just copies.” Aurora proceeds to question this by stating that they’re living creatures of God, while Toorop the protagonist tells her that they were organic machines created by humankind.




These tigers in the film look EXACTLY like real tigers, and have the same sounds and smells. These synthetic copies could be forms of art, living exhibitions that instil a sense of realism beyond anything we have ever experienced while acting as a form of conservation to the remnants of endangered species that cling to their habitats in a world full of human and technological expansion. A global issue could be solved by casting off the mantle of biology we hold in such high regard, and accepting that a mechanical, albeit visually replicated, placeholder may be the future of interaction with living, breathing endangered species.

Though these theorised ideas may seem positive, the moral ambiguity left after all the environmental dust has settled could cause quite a stir. With the recent application of “human rights” accompanied with the citizenship issued to an AI in Saudi Arabia, would we be willing to afford these mechanical constructs the same rights that we offer to biological animals on our planet. If we do decide to treat these creatures the same, would it not be cruel to keep them in cages for human entertainment and education? Or do these constructs deserve a lesser form of our moral compass due to being our creations?






Sean Streak is a staff writer on ART AFRICA‘s editorial team.

FEATURED IMAGE: Vance Kovacs’ concept art for ‘Black Panther’ film.

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