Posted by: Loren Coleman on October 24th, 2008
St. Edward’s University
3001 South Congress Avenue
Austin, Texas 78704
Oct. 17-Nov. 5, 2008.
Opening Reception: Friday, Oct. 17, 2008, 6-8 p.m.
Gallery Talk: TBA
Artist: Jeff Wilson
Jeff Wilson’s “Lookout”
The “Opening reception” description – which was obviously not written by the artist – shares the following:
Jeff Wilson’s photographs explore the unknown. Cryptozoology, the exhibition title, is the study of evidence that suggests the existence of creatures that have never before been recorded. From Loch Ness Monsters to Bigfoot to Abominable Snowmen, stories of unusual and mysterious creatures exemplify a desire to explain the unexplainable. Wilson’s images subtly insinuate the existence of the mythological, mysterious, and unexplained in everyday life; and chart our attempts to reconcile them.
The program description notes:
Cryptozoology is the study of evidence that suggests the existence of creatures that have never before been recorded. Jeff Wilson’s images subtly insinuate the existence of the mythological, mysterious and unexplained in everyday life – and chart our attempts to reconcile them.
Loren’s comment: Unfortunately, here is another example, which we have seen in the media as well as in art, of a badly confused definition of “cryptozoology” as delivered to us by someone disconnected, no doubt, to the art or events being showcased. (My guess is that a public relations individual, unfamiliar with cryptozoology, created these descriptions.)
What does “the study of evidence that suggests the existence of creatures that have never before been recorded” even mean? Would this be a case of something being investigated before someone even has sighted and encountered it and thus does not even know what it is, may be, or was? This is absurd.
Cryptozoology is the study of hidden animals, those so-called hidden or unverified animals as yet not specifically catalogued and classified by formal zoology (but have been seen, traces found, and perhaps even killed by the locals). Thus surely, these are animals, beasts or creatures that have been “recorded” or they would not even be able to be the focus of discussion. Indeed, the “study of the evidence” consists of evidence that has been “recorded,” of course. Being “ethnoknown” is an important component of the cryptozoological parameters of defining and investigating the cryptids, needless to say.
I was not able to find any examples online of Mr. Wilson’s cryptozoologically-informed art and hopefully a reader of Cryptomundo will send along some photos from the exhibit. It would be nice to observe his art without the screen that is set up by the above descriptors of what is (incorrectly) meant by the use of the title given to this exhibition.
Update: I’ve been in touch with the artist. Here are some further insights from his email, which he has given me permission to share here:
The blurb that went out from the university was not written by me and wouldn’t be the way I would describe it, but I would stand by it because it looks more to the meaning of the piece rather than any real definition. For the purposes of the piece, I preferred “for which there is no empirical evidence,” even though your book uses the phrase “hidden animals….undetected by those who would formally recognize their existence and catalog them,” which is the one I would use if I were truly trying to define it. I know the true definition is far more complex than any of those brief explanations.
I never intended this to be an academic study of a scientific endeavor. I wanted the title to play on the emotional resonance between cryptozoology, both the true core of it as well as the fringe aspects that receive so much attention, and the emotional state of the cultural landscape in America. The coelacanth, the giant squid, the okapi, giant pandas, and komodo dragons are just as important as Bigfoot, Chupacabras, and Mothman to the point I was trying to make with the work. It was more about the mystery of our choices and beliefs as a culture and the fearfulness that mystery can sometimes, however erroneously, bring about.
I wish you could have attended the show [for] you could have seen that the photographs actually have nothing at all to do with cryptozoology. They only use it as an extended metaphor along with a few other points, and my intention was never to impugn the character of an entire scientific discipline. Extended metaphors, no matter how apt, can only be taken so far before they begin to fall apart. Unfortunately, it seems that point comes much more quickly for someone with your knowledge of the subject than it does for the average observer.
I love your website and…I am also a great fan of the book by you and Jerome Clark entitled Cryptozoology A to Z.Jeff Wilson