17 Nov, 5-7pm, Ellen Wilkinson Conference Room
Gitanjali Pyndiah (Goldsmiths)
“The objet-Dodo: Re-framing extinction from a postcolonial context”
The sculptor Nirmal Hurry has a body of more than forty sculptural birds made of recycled objects and scrap metal. Initially functional objects, designed for strength, efficiency, precision and reliability, these objects are discarded of their utility and disposed of as waste. This presentation focuses on one of his birds, the extinct Dodo which is made of an assemblage of objects such as a rusty dissected gas tank of a bike, polished bicycle mudguards, fenders and sprockets, spring suspensions, flexible stainless steel exhaust pipes, cane knives, nuts and bolts. This heavy-looking android creature, erect and majestic, is however graceful and holds a gaze which not only captures attention but which pulsates with an inanimate life. While in Natural History museums the Dodo is framed within a discourse of fascination, for the artist, the dodo is neither anthropomorphised, nor exoticised nor romanticised as relic of Imperialist nostalgia but is elevated from a dump-yard of waste which paradoxically cannot be disposed of.
This paper theorises Hurry’s work through Derrida’s reframing of the frame. In ‘Parergon’ (1979), Derrida deconstructs the issue of the parerga, raised by Kant, which he defines as that which is outside the intrinsic work. The parergon is defined as part of a work which usually embellishes or complements and is supplementary to the central piece, yet outside the intrinsic value of the ergon, the work of art. This paper analyses how the representation of the Dodo is physically and politically framed in the museum narrative and makes a contrast with the material reality (raw materials extracted from the Earth and human labour required behind the obsolete objects) of the android Dodo which refuses to be forgotten, spoken for, framed and silenced.